RSA calls for election commitment to replace parliament’s prayers in least religious state

Si Gladman / 08 March 2024

The Rationalist Society of Australia has sought a commitment from the four largest parties contesting the Tasmanian election to replace prayer rituals with a more appropriate and secular practice in the new parliament.

In letters to Liberal leader Jeremy Rockliff (pictured), Labor leader Rebecca White (pictured), the Greens, and the Jacqui Lambie Network, the RSA said elected representatives would have a unique opportunity to make the new parliament truly reflective of the community’s diversity and welcoming for all citizens. 

Campaigns & Communications Coordinator Si Gladman said that the Tasmanian Parliament could be a leader in being the first parliament – state or federal parliament – to reform and modernise its procedures to replace Christian prayer rituals with practices that better reflect the community. 

According to the 2021 Census, Tasmania is the least religious state in Australia, with 50 per cent of Tasmanians identifying as not religious.

“At the next Census in 2026, the proportion of non-religious Tasmanians is expected to surge well beyond 50 per cent. It is untenable for the Tasmanian Parliament to continue to impose the religious worship of a minority religion on Tasmania’s majority non-religious population,” he wrote. 

“As a central pillar of the state’s democracy, Parliament should be secular and welcoming for all citizens – members of parliament, staff and members of the public. It should not privilege one religious worldview above other religious and non-religious worldviews.

“So this election campaign we ask you: will your party commit to replacing daily Christian prayer rituals with secular and more appropriate practices when the new Parliament commences?”

Mr Gladman noted that momentum for change was building across the state, with a number of local councils, including Clarence and Glenorchy councils, having replaced prayer rituals with secular practices in recent years.

In 2023, Independent upper house member Mike Gaffney called for removal of the prayer from the Legislative Council. Mr Gaffney failed to win enough support from colleagues for his motion to replace prayers with a new secular statement inviting members to pray or reflect in silence on their responsibilities to the people of Tasmania.

In 2022, the Liberal government, in a letter to the RSA, defended the Tasmanian lower house’s practice of inviting members to either join in the reciting aloud Christian prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer, or stand in silence during the prayer.

The Tasmanian state election is being held on Saturday 23 March.

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

Images: Ziyao Xiong (Unsplash); Jeremy Rockliff (Facebook); Rebecca White MP (Facebook)

All the more reason.