We stand with Sue

In the Senate, the new president, Sue Lines, has taken a principled stand for inclusion and diversity, saying she would like to see the practice of opening the houses of parliament with Christian prayers “gone”.

“…if we are genuine about the diversity of the parliament we cannot continue to say a Christian prayer to open the day,” she said.

Sadly, some leaders in the Labor Party, such as senators Penny Wong, Don Farrell and Katy Gallagher, have said the recital of Christian prayers should stay.

The Senate’s standing orders compel Senator Lines, as senate president, to recite Christian prayers. No-one should be forced to pray or participate in religious rituals, particularly if those prayers are contrary to a person’s considered beliefs. This is not what respect for freedom of religion or belief looks like.

So we’re calling on all who believe the proceedings of our national parliament should be inclusive and reflect the diversity of the Australian community to join with us in standing with Senator Lines on this issue.

Actions you can take

To show your support for Sue Lines’ call for parliament to better reflect Australia’s diversity, you can:

  1. Write to Senator Lines to thank her for speaking out for diversity and inclusion on this issue: senator.lines@aph.gov.au
  2. Write to your federal MP and senators to tell them you stand with Sue Lines and believe the practice of reciting Christian-only prayers should be replaced with something more inclusive and reflective of Australian society. You can find the contact details for your federal MP and state/territory Senators here.
  3. If you haven’t done so yet, please sign our petition and share it with your friends.
  4. Share/retweet our social media posts about this issue.

There is momentum for change

The new parliament has been widely celebrated as being the most diverse yet, with many members and senators coming from different cultural, religious and non-religious backgrounds.

But if parliament really values diversity, why continue imposing sectarian prayers that date from a different era and a different nation?

We know Australians want more inclusive practices. Our July 2022 petition calling for the parliament to replace Christian prayer rituals with something more inclusive has gathered thousands of signatures.

We know a number of MPs and Senators in the Albanese Labor government are opposed to the recital of prayers in parliament.

Earlier this year, Tim Watts, the member for Gellibrand, told the parliament that, as an atheist, he thought the prayer was inappropriate. We also know that some MPs and Senators who agree with Mr Watts are having to wait outside the chambers during the prayer ritual each day, excluded from the opening proceedings each day.

In August 2021, The Age newspaper’s editorial argued that the Victorian parliament should remove the prayer ritual: “Victoria has changed for the better since 1918 and is a more welcoming and diverse community. It’s important Parliament reflects and supports those changes.”

On the back of the Census results, non-religious and pro-secular voices are calling for fairer representation for non-religious Australians in the public domain, including in government institutions.

Even some religious figures are saying publicly they don’t think the Lord’s Prayer is appropriate in parliament. Reverend Michael Jensen of the Anglican Church recently said: “I am not wedded to the Lord’s Prayer and it doesn’t cook my breakfast either. I mean, I am wedded to the Lord’s Prayer, but not particularly having the Lord’s Prayer said in parliament.”

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All the more reason.