A new petition is aiming to build enough momentum before the federal parliament resumes to put the issue of Christian prayer rituals on the agenda of newly elected representatives heading to Canberra.
Launched by Rationalist Society of Australia president Meredith Doig, the change.org petition calls for our federal parliament to acknowledge the incredible diversity of our community and replace its Christian prayer rituals with more inclusive practices.
In the petition, Dr Doig notes the surge in the census of people identifying as non-religious and says now is the time for politicians to modernise the parliament with practices that reflect Australia’s diversity.
“In 2018, the Australian Senate held an inquiry into whether to continue prayers as part of the Senate’s proceedings. Ultimately, they concluded there was no ‘momentum for change’. Together, we can build that momentum for change,” she says.
In both the House of Representatives and the Senate, elected representatives, staff and others in attendance are asked to stand for the recital of the Lord’s prayer and another Christian prayer to start each day.
In the petition, Dr Doig argues that the Christian-only prayers are not inclusive nor a true reflection of Australian society.
“Non-religious people and those following faiths other than Christianity may well feel uncomfortable in what should be our country’s most welcoming and secular institutions of democracy,” she says.
In August last year, the RSA wrote to then Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and his deputy, Richard Marles, to urge them to follow the lead of Victorian Premier Dan Andrews and pledge to replace Christian prayers with something more inclusive.
“With a new parliament about to meet in Canberra, now is the time to call on politicians to modernise the parliament with practices that reflect Australia’s diversity.” Sign our petition to replace Christian prayers with something more inclusive: https://t.co/YY1askHj5e#auspol
— Rationalist Society (@AusRationalist) July 6, 2022
Mr Andrews has pledged to replace Christian prayers if re-elected at the state election later this year. Victorian newspaper The Age has backed the idea.
Mr Albanese and Mr Marles have not responded to the RSA’s letter.
In her petition and in her letter to the Labor leaders, Dr Doig suggested that a more inclusive approach could borrow from the ACT Legislative Assembly, where a period of silent reflection starts daily proceedings.
The RSA is writing to a number of federal MPs and Senators, including the new independents, before parliament begins later this month to urge them to address the prayer issue as part of an effort to modernise the parliament.
Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman