The Rationalist Society of Australia has written to the Victorian Attorney-General to ask when the government will deliver on its commitment to replace daily prayer rituals in parliament with a more appropriate practice.
Although Jaclyn Symes MLC re-affirmed the government’s pre-election commitment to finding a “purpose-built” model for Victoria in a speech to parliament earlier this year, it appears that no action has been taken.
In a letter this week, RSA president Dr Meredith Doig asked when the government would begin work on replacing the prayer rituals with something more inclusive and reflective of the state’s diversity, and what would the process involve.
The chambers of the Victoria Parliament begin each day with the recital of Christian prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer.
Victoria would become the first state to remove prayers from its procedures –although the Australian Capital Territory’s Legislative Assembly did so in the 1990s.
In March, Attorney-General Symes told the parliament that she “reiterate that commitment” given prior to the 2021 state election.
“Indeed it was a commitment that I gave in the last government to workshop potential replacements for the Lord’s prayer. We know that it is a vastly different chamber and a vastly different community from a hundred years ago, when the Lord’s Prayer was established,” she said.
“It is a commitment that is not yet met, so I stand by that commitment.”
She also said that the matter was one for not the executive but her Legislative Council colleagues to discuss prior to putting forward a proposal.
In her letter, Dr Doig also asked Attorney-General Symes for the government’s response to a joint letter by councillors calling for intervention on the practice of local councils mandating prayer rituals in meetings.
In January, 21 councillors sent a letter to the state government and a number of bodies, including the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, to voice their opposition to prayers.
The RSA understands that the councillors have not yet received a response.
In the meantime, the RSA believes that the number of councillors supporting the joint letter has almost doubled.
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 Campaigns & Communications Coordinator for the Rationalist Society of Australia. He also hosts ‘The Secular Agenda’ podcast.
Image: Jaclyn Symes (Facebook)