The Rationalist Society of Australia applauds the leadership of 21 Victorian councillors who have jointly asked the state government to address the issue of prayer recitals as part of council meetings.
Comments from Dr Meredith Doig, president of the RSA:
We applaud the 21 councillors who have taken a stand on this issue in Victoria.
By adding their names to a joint letter to the Premier, government ministers, and key institutions, such as human rights bodies, these councillors have shown great leadership in sending a clear message that they want the state government to address this issue.
Over recent years, we have heard a lot from religious lobbyists and religious politicians calling for so-called ‘religious freedom’ laws.
But now we have a large group of elected representatives who say that “freedom of religion necessarily includes freedom from religion”.
Elected representatives, whether they be in federal or state parliaments, or at the level of local government, should not be asked to partake in acts of religious worship as they go about their jobs representing their communities.
We are a diverse nation, with people from many different faiths and, increasingly, from non-faith backgrounds. The 2021 Census showed that 40 per cent of us are not-religious. Our parliaments and councils need to modernise their practices to reflect and celebrate this diversity, and become more inclusive of all people.
The joint letter is another sign that momentum is building across the country for the federal parliament, state parliaments and local governments to replace prayer rituals with more inclusive and genuinely secular practices.
We know that the Andrews government has promised to address the issue of reciting prayers in the state parliament in the new term of parliament. We hope that the state government can also respond to the councillors’ requests to address the issue at local government level.
Well done to the 21 councillors in Victoria for raising their voices! We hope other councillors and members of parliaments right across the nation will take inspiration from them.