Australian City Council Says No to Prayer Before Meetings

Waverley is a suburb of Sydney in Australia, and the Waverly Council just did something you’ll never see in an American city.

They nixed the Serenity Prayer said before each city council meeting and their explanation makes complete sense:

[Waverley Mayor, Cr John Wakefield] wants Waverley councillors to focus on good governance and ethical behaviour instead.

“Our core responsibility is to act with integrity, to act ethically, on behalf of the community,” he said.

“Some councillors and a large proportion of our community are not religious,” Cr Wakefield said. “It would be hypocritical of those councillors who aren’t religious to say a prayer to God when they don’t believe in God.”

I’ll take Things You’ll Never Hear in America for $200, Alex.

Any council member who is religious can still pray — privately — before any meeting if s/he chooses, but there’s no longer mandatory gibberish uttered by everyone before they have to get down to work.

Why is it so hard for our own politicians to learn a lesson from this?

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Annaigaw

    Because our politicians still get a lot of brownie points for pushing religion. Australia must be refreshingly enlightening.

    • Anonymous

      “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” – Upton Beall Sinclair, Jr.

  • Tim

    If anyone is reading from the UK, you may be interested to know that many local councils start their meetings with prayers.  The UK National Secular Society has legal opinions that suggest that this is illegal under the European Convention of Human Rights (the UK manages without a written constituation so the the European Convention in some aspects is teh nearest thing we have). 

    It has launched a test case against Bideford Town Council.  If it is ruled illegal then prayers would have to stop in all councils in England and Wales (Scotland and N. Ireland have separate legal system so could in theory continue). 

    This is a big battle that will run for a while because whatever the outcome an appeal seems likely.  The NSS has a fighting fund if anyone wants to donate to the no-prayer side of the argument.  If this case is similar to other recent UK cases, those on the side of God will be funed by American Evangelical money:

    http://www.secularism.org.uk/council-prayers.html

  • Erik

    What does it mean when the Australian govnt is more progressive than your own?

    • Guest01

      excuse me? What is your statement meant to imply? :| Most places are more progressive than america, even though they are still improving themself

  • snoofle

    Of course, in the UK there are prayers at the start of every House of Commons and House of Lords sitting – although attendance is not compulsory.  No multi-faith option – it’s totally christian.  So not so surprising it also happens at council level. 
    http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/business/prayers/
    http://www.churchofengland.org/our-views/the-church-in-parliament/house-of-lords-prayers.aspx

  • jonquil14

    It’s only in the last few days that I’ve realised the big difference between being secular here in Australia and secular in the US. There’s no baggage attached to beng non-religious here. We’ve had several openly atheist Prime Ministers, nobody ever linked being a communist with being an atheist and regular church-going is very unusual. 

    Before you get too congratulatory though, our parliament recites the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of each sitting day and an insidious menace called the Australian Christian Lobby has been inserting itself more and more noisily into public life in the last few years. Prime Minister Howard (2 PMs ago) pandered to them by changing the Marriage Act so it specified ‘a man and a woman’ and put government funded chaplains into public schools. The left leaning Labor party that succeeded him has continued both of these policies, although not without a bit of a shitfight.

  • Nazani14

    I’ve always hated this bit of doggerel.  Not just for the reference to god, but also its defeatism.  What if Martin Luther King had had the “wisdom” to accept that the status quo could not be changed?

    • Tom

      Evidently wisdom told him that it could.  Really, the whole thing is a quite rational aspiration; it’s only the strange notion that such qualities can only be supplied by an external agent, and a supernatural one at that, that ruin it.

      Substitute “I strive to have” for “God grant me” and I’d probably be happy for anyone to say it.

      • Tom

        voluntarily, I hasten to add.  And there’s still the question of whether it would serve any useful purpose or should even be allowed prior to a council meeting.  In a saner world than this one, it might even be taken for granted that anyone lacking such qualities would never have got a seat on the damn council in the first place.

  • Jeff Plank

    Fun Fact: In Ontario, courts ruled that saying the Lord’s Prayer before council meetings is illegal, yet 18 municipalities still do it anyways.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X