Living on a prayer: it's time to separate church and state!

Today in Parliament, Abigail gave notice of a motion calling on the NSW Government to abolish the recitation of the Lord's Prayer at the start of each sitting day, a token of the past that fails to represent the rich diversity of our state.

Abigail said:

I give notice that on the next sitting day I will move: 

(1) That this House affirms that people of all beliefs and backgrounds deserve to be fully represented and included in the New South Wales parliament. 

(2) That this House notes that:

  • the Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory amended Standing Order 30 on 1 June 1995 to replace the opening prayer with a moment for members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory, 
  • numerous local councils in states and territories across Australia have replaced the opening prayer at Council meetings with alternatives such as the secular pledge, the national anthem, or a moment of silence for individual prayer or reflection,
  • councils who have changed their policy on opening prayer have done so in response to outcry from their local communities, legal challenges on religious rights, and a call to better represent their larger populations, 
  • according to the ABS 2021 Census:
    • the number of people who identify as having “no religion” in NSW has increased from 25.5 percent in 2016 to 33.2 percent in 2021, 
    • the number of people who identify with a non-Christian religion in NSW increased from 10.1% to 12.1%, and
    • citizens in NSW marked “no religion” for reasons including not wanting Christian ideology to influence policy decisions,
  • opening with a parliamentary prayer based on a singular religion is immoral  in a country that values religious diversity, and it excludes and devalues those who belong to a different religion or no religion, and
  • using an alternative to the opening prayer, such as a moment of silence, individual prayer, a secular reflection on duty, or rotating through prayers from a variety of religions, would cultivate more religious freedom and acceptance.

(3) That this House agrees to replace the opening Christian prayer in NSW Parliament with an alternative method that allows for more freedom of expression and sets an example of acceptance and inclusion for the people of NSW.

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