The National Secular Lobby, representing pro-secular groups across Australia, is appalled and aghast at the news that the daily Senate prayer will continue.
Despite the Senate passing a motion to change the Lord’s Prayer to a simple invitation to “pray or reflect”, a Senate Committee report released late today has recommended that the prayer should be retained. The report concluded: “The committee does not consider, on the evidence before it and after its own deliberations, that there is a momentum for change.”
National Secular Lobby ambassador and former ALP Senator Chris Schacht says: “No momentum for change? This decision beggars belief. For the first time in Australia’s history, ‘no religion’ was the top answer in our national Census. In addition, Australia is a nation of more religions and creeds than ever before. It’s vital that our national character be reflected in our parliamentary processes. This is a gross insult to the many Australians that choose to follow a non-Christian faith, or no faith at all.
“The inquiry’s recommendation is further proof of the power the Christian lobby has in Australia. A power that is unwarranted and unconstitutional.”
The committee’s report follows a public submission process in which the NSL argued that:
- Christian prayers are inconsistent with the religiously-diverse population in Australia that MPs are elected to represent;
- By saying the Lord’s Prayer, the Senate is endorsing one particular religion and going against the notion of separation of Church and State as highlighted in our Constitution;
- By requiring the President and Speaker to recite the prayer the Senate runs the risk of violating future MPs’ “freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief” (as described in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) should those positions be held by someone of another faith, or no faith at all.
Chris Schacht says: “We know from the last Census that “no religion” is now the largest belief system in Australia. We know from a 2016 Ipsos poll that 78% of Australians believe in the separation of Church and State. Retaining this prayer is divisive, offensive and discriminatory.
“The National Secular Lobby asks all Senators who agree to deliberately absent themselves from the Senate when prayers are being read out, in solidarity with the many Australians who object to this outdated practice.”
National Secular Lobby Limited