One-third of the total number of lawmakers in the Victorian Parliament’s upper house are boycotting the Christian prayer ritual at the start of each day.
A member of the Legislative Council has told the Rationalist Society of Australia that about one-third of their colleagues – or about 13 of the 40-member chamber – wait outside during the recital of prayers.
In the lower house last week, six Labor members began their protest against the exclusionary prayer by also staging a boycott.
The surge in the number of members of parliament refusing to take part in prayers will increase pressure on the Victorian government to deliver on its promise to remove Christian prayers from the formal procedures of parliament.
Labor MPs Jordan Crugnale, Mat Hilakari, Paul Mercurio and Michaela Settle joined their colleagues Paul Edbrooke and Dylan Wight in sitting out Lord's Prayer when Victorian parliament resumed for the first time this year.
— Benita Kolovos (@benitakolovos) February 6, 2024
Last week, the RSA wrote to all Labor members of parliament and minor parties, urging them to advocate for replacing Christian prayers with more welcoming and inclusive practices, and with something that better reflects the diversity of the Victorian community.
In response to a question in the Legislative Council, Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes (pictured) acknowledged she had “an unmet commitment” in regards to removing the daily prayers.
A number of members of the state parliament responded to the RSA last week to say they were determined to pursue the reform.
A spokesperson for Labor minister Steve Dimopoulos said the government acknowledged the “need to adapt to our modern multicultural state”.
“In recognition of this, we have committed to workshopping a more purpose-fit way to commence sittings,” the spokesperson said.
“Discussions and planning for this are underway, and your input and the perspectives of our community members are valuable and under consideration.”
A Greens member of parliament said the practice of opening each day with the Lord’s Prayer was an “outdated tradition that no longer reflects the diversity of our community”.
“An alternative introduction, such as a moment of silence for reflection, is a more representative and inclusive way to open parliament,” they said.
“I and my Greens colleagues will continue campaigning to make our parliament more inclusive and representative.”
The Rationalist Society of Australia is actively lobbying and advocating for prayer rituals to be replaced with more appropriate practices in councils and parliaments. See the latest updates here.
Si Gladman is Campaign & Communications Coordinator for the Rationalist Society of Australia. He also hosts ‘The Secular Agenda’ podcast.