Victorian Liberal Party joins with religious clerics in demanding prayers stay

Si Gladman / 29 May 2024

The Liberal Party of Victoria has joined forces with religious clerics in demanding that the Victorian Parliament continue to impose exclusionary Christian worship, including on non-religious people and non-Christians.

Liberal upper house member Evan Mulholland (pictured) has placed a motion on the Notice Paper in support of faith leaders who wrote to all members of parliament earlier this month demanding that the parliament continue to observe prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer, at the opening of each sitting day.

In the motion (see page 42 here), Mr Mulholland asks that the Legislative Council note the “extraordinary joint letter” from faith leaders and cites their list of arguments for keeping prayer in parliament.

It has been 1034 days since the state Labor government promised to replace prayers with something more reflective and appropriate for Victoria’s diverse community.

Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes has acknowledged the government’s “unmet commitment”.

The flurry of activity – the letter from faith leaders and motions on the Notice Paper – may be a sign that the government is ready to deal with the matter.

Earlier in the year, Mr Mulholland declared that the Liberal Party would “fiercely oppose” any attempt to remove prayer.

The letter from faith leaders claimed that “a majority of Victorians…believe in God or a Higher Power other than themselves” and argued that the practice was a “strong reminder” for MPs that parliament was “not the ultimate authority”.

Census data show that Christianity has plummeted from 85 per cent of the Victorian population in the 1970s to 41 per cent in 2021. The percentage of people who identified as having no religion at the 2021 Census was 39 per cent.

David Ettershank, of the Legalise Cannabis Party, has also submitted a motion on the Notice Paper (see page 51), arguing that reciting prayers is an “anachronism that has no place in this Parliament”.

His motion states that the separation of church and state is a central tenet of the Westminster system and that parliament must reflect the diverse community that it serves.

“Members of Parliament are responsible to the people who elected them and should require no invocation of a ‘higher power’ to do what they are elected to do,” the motion says.

The Rationalist Society of Australia’s Executive Director Si Gladman is calling on the Labor government to deliver on its promise to the Victorian people.

“The proportion of Victorians marking ‘no religion’ is on track to surpass those affiliating with Christianity at the next Census in 2026,” he said.

“The Victorian community is rich in diversity. It’s time for the parliament to reflect the community it serves.

“Parliament should be secular and welcoming for all. It shouldn’t make people feel uncomfortable and unwelcome by imposing acts of religious worship as part of formal proceedings.”

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

Image: Evan Mulholland (Facebook)

All the more reason.