In a push to encourage the Victorian government to deliver on its promise of removing Christian prayers from parliament, the Rationalist Society of Australia has reminded all state Labor politicians of their party’s commitments to providing all people with an opportunity to “participate fully in society”, and supporting diversity and inclusion.
The RSA has sent a letter to all Labor MPs this week, at the start of the parliamentary year, urging them to act this year on replacing daily Christian prayers with more welcoming and inclusive practices, and with something that better reflects the diversity of the Victorian community.
In the letter, the RSA noted Victorian Labor’s own policy platform spruiks the party as “the party of equality” and one that is “built on the values of social justice, diversity and inclusion.” The policy document also says:
“Victoria is a diverse and inclusive state…”
“It is a priority for Labor that Victorians from diverse backgrounds are able to participate fully in society, remain connected to their culture, and have equal rights, protections and opportunities.”
The RSA told Labor MPs that the practice of mandating Christian prayer rituals in both chambers of the parliament was exclusionary and showed a complete disregard for the state’s diversity.
“It sends a message of exclusion towards non-religious people (now 40% of the population) and non-Christians. Parliament should be a secular institution that is welcoming of all people,” the letter said.
One Labor member’s office responded to assure the RSA that progress was under way to develop a more appropriate practice.
“Discussions and planning for this are underway and your input and the perspectives of our community members are valuable and under consideration,” a staff member said.
“While the Lord’s Prayer has played a role in Parliamentary proceedings, we acknowledge the need to adapt to our modern multicultural state. In recognition of this, we have committed to workshopping a more purpose-fit way to commence sittings.”
Last week, the RSA wrote to Premier Jacinta Allan and Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes to call on them to deliver on the Labor government’s promise – given more than 900 days ago – to remove prayers from parliament.
In January Premier Allan revealed that she wanted to see parliament’s practices reflect the state’s cultural diversity. However, Christian lobbyists have since launched a letter-bomb campaign to urge the government not to remove Christian prayers.
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.