RSA questions Pesutto on conscience vote over prayers

Si Gladman / 13 June 2024

The Rationalist Society of Australia has sought confirmation from the Victorian Opposition Leader, John Pesutto, on whether Liberal Party members of parliament will be forced to support keeping Christian worship in parliament.

RSA Executive Director Si Gladman wrote to Mr Pesutto (see letter below) today to ask whether Liberal MPs would have a free vote, or conscience vote, on the matter.

This week, Mr Pesutto and a number of Liberal MPs appeared in campaign videos for the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), demanding that the Victorian Parliament continue to open each day with Christian prayers.

The ACL is promoting a petition which has gained about 8000 signatures on the parliament’s website. 

In one video, Mr Pesutto said that the Liberals and Nationals “support very strongly the retention of the Lord’s Prayer”, and urged Victorians to “get behind” the cause.

A Liberal colleague, Evan Mulholland, said the Liberal Party would fight “every day to keep the Lord’s Prayer as a tradition in our parliament.”

However, the RSA understands that some Liberal MPs do not support the exclusionary practice of opening parliament each day with Christian prayers.

Click here to watch the full video on the ACL Facebook page.

The Liberal Party typically allows a conscience vote for its parliamentarians on matters involving religion and faith.

Mr Pesutto and Mr Mulholland appeared alongside David Southwick, Georgie Crozier, Bev McArthur, Richard Welch, Nicole Werner, Renee Heath, David Hodgett, Chris Crewther, David Davis, Brad Rowswell in the ACL videos.

Mr Pesutto said the Lord’s Prayer had a long history in the parliament and “should be retained for that reason alone”.

“But also, importantly, the Lord’s Prayer evokes a solemnity, a kind of deep reflection in the business that the parliament is to transact on behalf of all of the Victorian people,” he said.


“Its purpose is to bring out in all of us that commitment to the public interest and serving all of the Victorian people.”

As the RSA has reported, it has been more than 1000 days since the Labor government promised to replace the prayer ritual with something more appropriate and reflective of the Victorian community.

In parliament earlier this year, Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes acknowledged she had “an unmet commitment”.

About one-third of lawmakers in the state’s upper house are boycotting the Lord’s prayer, waiting outside the chamber while it takes place.

Si Gladman is Executive Director of the Rationalist Society of Australia. He also hosts ‘The Secular Agenda’ podcast.

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Image: John Pesutto (Facebook)

Letter to John Pesutto, 13 June 2024

Dear John,

I’m writing on behalf of the Rationalist Society of Australia, which is the nation’s oldest freethought organisation promoting reason, secularism and evidence-based policy.

We are concerned to see that you and a number of Liberal MPs are leading a social media campaign by the Australian Christian Lobby, demanding that the state parliament continue to impose exclusively Christian worship – the recital of the Lord’s Prayer – at the opening of each day.

We noted that, in one video for the ACL, you commented:

“The Liberals and Nationals support very strongly the retention of the Lord’s Prayer in the proceedings of the Victorian Parliament.”

Your colleague, Evan Mulholland, said:

“The Liberal Party and myself will be fighting every day to keep the Lord’s Prayer as a tradition in our parliament.”

Earlier in the year, Mr Mulholland told parliament:

“The Liberals and Nationals support continuing the tradition of reading the Lord’s Prayer in Parliament.”

We understand that matters relating to religion and faith are typically assigned as free votes/conscience votes for Liberal Party members.

Can you please confirm whether the Liberal Party will be giving its parliamentary members a free vote/conscience vote on this matter when it is deliberated in the houses of parliament?

We understand that some Liberal MPs do not support the exclusionary practice of opening parliament each day with Christian prayers.


Si Gladman

Executive Director,

Rationalist Society of Australia

All the more reason.