Lord’s Prayer in Parliament

Posted: October 27, 2008 in Atheism, Australia, News, Politics, Religion
Tags: , , ,

Australia is a secular nation, where no religion is promoted over another and everyone has the freedom to practice (or not practice) the religion of their choice.  This idea has been put under strain for some time now, with current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd being a devout Christian, previous PM John Howard being the same and so on.  Over the weekend, there was a call for the Lord’s Prayer, a pretty standard Christian Prayer, to be dropped from being recited at the start of parliamentary sessions.

Govt, Opposition united in prayer stance

The Federal Government and Opposition have both given the thumbs down to calls to change or abandon the Lord’s Prayer recited at the beginning of each day of federal Parliament.

But the Greens want the prayer replaced with a period of reflection and a conscience vote in both houses on the issue.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Harry Jenkins, has called for a public debate about whether the daily prayer should be rewritten or replaced.

He said the prayer was the most controversial aspect of parliamentary procedure and had been raised with him by MPs and members of the public.

His call has been met with protests from the Australian Christian Lobby and expressions of support for the prayer from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull.

A spokeswoman for Mr Rudd said the Prime minister viewed the prayer as an important tradition that should not be broken.

“The Lord’s Prayer is a long-standing tradition of the Australian Parliament and the Prime Minister believes it should continue,” she said.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull and Nationals leader Warren Truss issued a joint statement, saying the removal of the prayer would be unacceptable.

The pair said media reports today were the first time the matter had been raised with the Coalition.

“The Lord’s Prayer has a very important place in the conduct of the parliamentary program, and ahead of the day’s debate and deliberations it provides a non-partisan reaffirmation of our commitment to the common good for the people of Australia,” Mr Turnbull and Mr Truss said in the statement.

Greens leader Bob Brown said a period of reflection would be better than the “old fashioned” rote recitation of the prayer.

He wants a conscience vote in both houses on the issue.

“I am repeatedly dismayed that we have people going through prayers by rote about being good to each other then immediately getting into the business of attacking each other in the Senate,” Senator Brown said.

“I think it would be better if we had a period of reflection in which people could think about such things as ‘will what we are doing today be welcomed by our grandchildren?’

“The matter should be debated and there should be a free vote on it.”

Senator Brown said he would discuss moving a joint motion with independent MP, Rob Oakeshott, whom earlier this month used his maiden speech to call for a daily acknowledgement of the Aboriginal owners of the land.

Australian Christian Lobby managing director Jim Wallace said Christianity had had a profound impact on shaping our laws, culture and democracy.

“It’s appropriate that we open parliaments with the Lord’s Prayer for its cultural and historic relevance,” he said.

Australian Federation Of Islamic Councils president Ikebal Patel said the prayer should be non-denominational and include a recognition of the Indigenous owners of the land.

“Any prayer before a session of the Parliament is good but what I would encourage is some words to acknowledge the land we are on, the Indigenous spirituality.

“Acknowledging the many other religions that Australia encompasses certainly, I think, would be a more inclusive prayer,” he said.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the Indigenous owners of the land were acknowledged at the opening of Parliament for the year and would be recognised at other official occasions at Parliament House.

So should the leaders of a nation persist with an exclusively Christian tradition every time a parliamentary session starts?  In a country that is increasingly diverse with religious beliefs, it seems very hard to justify indeed.  The rather weak attempts to justify it are really rather meaningless when you look at them;

A spokeswoman for Mr Rudd said the Prime minister viewed the prayer as an important tradition that should not be broken.

What makes it it important, exactly?  Just that it is a long standing tradition?  There’s a tradition that actors are not allowed to mention that name of the play ‘MacBeth’ and have to do certain things if they do.  Just because something is traditional, does not mean it is not silly and certainly does not mean it makes sense and should continue.

“The Lord’s Prayer has a very important place in the conduct of the parliamentary program, and ahead of the day’s debate and deliberations it provides a non-partisan reaffirmation of our commitment to the common good for the people of Australia,” Mr Turnbull and Mr Truss said in the statement.

Is the Lord’s Prayer really non-partisan? Well, yes – it is a statement that does not recognise or distinguish between political parties.  However, it also does not recognise the fact that an increasing number of Australian citizens are simply not religious and do not give a hoot about prayer (logically speaking, of course, prayer is a rather silly and pointless exercise even if God did exist as I’ve pointed out previously).

As for common good for the people of Australia? Let’s take a look at the wording of the prayer, shall we?

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. [For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yoursnow and for ever. Amen.]

There is precious little in that passage which says anything what-so-ever about ‘common good’. The closest you might be able to find in there is Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us but even that falls horribly short since if you don’t forgive anyone else then you’re out of luck as well.

When you think about bit, there’s far more to do with common good in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (“Be excellent to each other”) than the Lord’s Prayer.

And as Senator Brown points out, any claims of common good or respectability are hypocritical to say the least;

“I am repeatedly dismayed that we have people going through prayers by rote about being good to each other then immediately getting into the business of attacking each other in the Senate,” Senator Brown said.

Parliamentary representatives in the Australia Lower Houses and Upper Houses are infamous for innane stunts, calling out insults and generally exhibiting behaviour I would find horribly unacceptable from Primary School Children.  Therefore we have to conclude the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer isn’t helping one little jot in that particular department and maybe some ‘quiet time’ where House Members just sit and quietly reflect would be a lot better.

Australian Christian Lobby managing director Jim Wallace said Christianity had had a profound impact on shaping our laws, culture and democracy.

Democracy came from the Greeks, not the Christians.  Most of our laws have absolutely nothing at all to do with Christianity either, for that matter.  Culture is much more of a grey area but even then is still highly debatable since Australian culture is so incredibly diverse and has, throughout it’s entire history, been influenced by a huge range of other cultures to various degrees.

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Comments
  1. Brendan of Wollongong NSW says:

    Remove the Lord’s Prayer from the Aussie Parliament.
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=49611362120

  2. I was frankly appalled to find that “the Lord’s Prayer” is recited at the beginning of each parliamentary day. This incantation has no place in the formal running of a modern and professedly secular state. With fully 20% of Australians indicating “no religion” in the 2006 census, and only 53% identifying as Christian, how can this possibly be considered a good idea?

  3. Richard says:

    Prayer and Parliament! Billions of people have prayed trillions of times to be delivered from from the evil God created! Now before hurling thunderbolts look to your copy of God’s own sacred, truthful word, truthful because its Author said so, and see where God created the universe, He therefore created sin, disease, hunger, pain and all other things making earth a vale of tears. For our Parliamentarians to bow down to, to kowtow to, to worship such a God suggests abandonment of faculties our Representatives should esteem. Christians awake!

  4. Bill says:

    You want to remove the lordsrayer in parliament. Then you may as well change our constitutions preamble where it states Almighty God translated (Elohim) our Creator God in Genesis from the bible. Then change our flag whereby Saint Andrew Saint George and Saint Patrick then you may as well illuminate the southern cross stars that represent Jesus return in the constellations. O sorry that’s why you want an Atheist republic. That could Leed to a republic where by a Muslim leader comes along and introduces sharia excepting child marriage at the heart of sharia. This is our countries judochristian foundation. Hands off please.

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