Prayers have no place in Parliament, say a number of UK MPs

Prayers have no place in Parliament, say a number of UK MPs January 21, 2019

FOR at least 450 years Anglican prayers have kicked off proceedings in Parliament, but a group of British MPs have decided the time has come to ditch this silly and arcane practice.

The MPs have moved a motion that says the prayers are incompatible with a society which respects the principle of freedom of, and from, religion.

The early day motion has been backed by the National Secular Society (NSS) at a time when church attendance in the United Kingdom has plummeted to new lows.

Image via Flickr

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans, above, said:

Religious worship is for individuals who choose it – not for nations or legislative bodies. Members of parliament are of course free to pray in their own time, but institutionalised prayer doesn’t belong in the legislative process.

Parliament should reflect the country as it is today. Ending this anachronism would be tangible example of the reform needed in the house and represent a positive step forwards for modernity, equality and freedom of conscience.

The motion reads:

That this House recognises that religious worship should not play any part in the formal business of the House of Commons; believes that parliamentary meetings should be conducted in a manner equally welcoming to all attendees, irrespective of their personal beliefs; further believes that Parliamentary Prayers are not compatible with a society which respects the principle of freedom of and from religion; urges that prayers should not form part of the official business of Parliament; and calls on the Procedure Committee to consider alternative arrangements.

But at least one senior law-maker – Labour MP Keith Vaz – wants the nonsense to continue.

Vaz moved this amendment:

Line 1, leave out from ‘House’ to end and insert ‘recognises the importance of prayer to the work of Members, whatever their faith or beliefs; understands that prayers have been a central part of the work of this House since 1558, and that it has followed its present form since the reign of Charles II; commends the way in which the Speaker’s Chaplain leads prayers, which provide a time for reflection, perspective and calm ahead of the important work of the House; and recognises that Members are under no obligation to participate, should they object to such proceedings.

The motion has so far attracted support from ruling Conservative, Labour, Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats MPs.

Conservative Crispin Blunt said:

Whilst religious worship occupies a strong part in some people’s lives, it should no longer play a role in the way we conduct our political affairs as an independent, open and diverse nation.

Tommy Sheppard of the Scottish National Party (SNP) added:

Parliamentary prayers is one of many archaic Westminster procedures that is long overdue a rethink. The current system completely ignores that MPs, and society as a whole, come from all faiths and none.

Image via YouTube

Ironically, last year a Catholic Mass was conducted for the first time in the Scottish Parliament (Holyrood)  – and calls were then made to have this mumbo-jumbo held as a regular event. Archbishop Leo Cushley, above, of St Andrews & Edinburgh Archdiocese, celebrated the Mass. He said:

It is a great privilege to be officially invited to offer Holy Mass within the Scottish Parliament, the first such invitation since the parliament’s re-establishment 19 years ago. It is a generous gesture which seems to recognise that Catholics are valued participants in the civic life of contemporary Scotland, where we seek to work with others in advancing the common good.

Labour MSP Elaine Smith said that around 25 people attended the Mass with MSPs and staff from the parliament buildings. All the leaders of the Holyrood parties were invited –but not all pitched up. She added the Mass gained cross-party support with the exception of the Green Party.

Hooray for them!

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Broga

    Glad to see Vaz wanting prayers to continue and saying how important they are to everyone. Anything supported by Vaz can confidently be dismissed as bollocks. Have I any evidence for this?. Read his comments above. What clearer evidence would you want?

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    Won’t pass, too many god botherers in parliament for that to happen.

  • Jennny

    Yup, a man completely lacking in integrity. His wikipedia entry has great chunks of information about his dodgy dealings…I’m surprised he still has a parliamentary post.

  • TrickyDicky

    And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. (Matthew 6.5 KJV)

    They never bother to read their bible.

  • epeeist

    There was a spot on this on the BBC Radio 4 programme Sunday (available on BBC Sounds), the woman who wanted to keep prayers was utterly dreadful.

  • Cali Ron

    They’re too busy brow beating unbelievers with them.

  • larry parker

    Speaking of archaic procedures, how’s the Queen doing?

  • Broga

    The standards of MPs are very low. Vaz probably comes out well amongst so many flaky characters.

  • Broga

    Pretty good, I think. She is to be given £3 million to do up her palaces. This is “serving the public” royal style.

  • Vanity Unfair

    Compare and contrast (as all the best exam papers used to say):
    (a) the prayers that are offered at the beginning of each sitting at both houses of Parliament
    (b) the present state of the country.
    Then give a reasoned appreciation of the efficacy of prayer in politics.

  • (((Hornèd Pontilibratificus)))
  • Jim Jones

    She’s OK. But great grandad is overdue for turning in his car keys.

  • Jim Jones

    ISTM they create a ton of money for the UK as a tourist novelty.

  • Broga

    You may be right, Jim, as they do seem to attract some visitors. I see that $85, 000 has been offered for a piece of Philip’s car. On the other hand Portugal, where I went on holiday some years ago had buildings as attractive as anything in the UK and as popular. And I like Malaga with its wonderful mixture of styles, especially the Moorish with the use of water.

  • Vanity Unfair

    You’re right. Nobody goes to France after what they did to their royals in 1793.
    (That’s the Unfair bit.)

  • Judgeforyourself37

    Prayers and religion do not belong in Parliament nor do they belong in our House or Senate.