To Pray or Not to Pray

Sean McGuire at My Secret Atheist Blog has been closely monitoring municipal councils, especially in Ontario, to report on which councils say the Lord’s Prayer, which councils say a prayer, and which councils don’t appeal to some god for guidance at the opening of council meetings. In his latest post on the topic, “Port Hope’s Got It Right” McGuire says,

Sometimes, all the Ontario city and town halls who insist on illegally reciting the Lord’s Prayer during their council meetings can overshadow places that have taken a turn for the better.

However, a press release from the Canadian Secular Alliance indicates that Mississauga, Ontario’s third most populated city, may soon be convinced to “get it right” as well:

Mississauga resident Derek Gray has filed a complaint with Mississauga City Council calling for an end to the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and will be called to address council on Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 at 9:00AM.

He is supported by the Canadian Secular Alliance, which intervened in the October 14th Supreme Court of Canada case to argue against all public prayer in Canada.

“The City of Mississauga is breaking the law,” said Justin Trottier, CSA Spokesperson. “The Ontario Court of Appeal has declared it unconstitutional to recite the Lord’s Prayer at city meetings.”

“Religious prayers may reflect tradition, but exclusionary behaviour does not reflect contemporary Canadian values,” said Trottier. “Mississauga is not a Christian city, nor a theist city. Religious services belong in places of worship and not in government.”

The December 17 Mississauga City Council meeting will be streamed live online by Rogers TV, so you will be able to see and listen to Derek Gray speak.

Gray’s letter to Mississauga News shows he has compelling and commonsense arguments against the practise of reciting the Lord’s Prayer at municipal council meetings:

Regarding the Lord’s Prayer at City Council.

After reading the second published letter in support of retaining the prayer, I felt I must express my disappointment.

Firstly, city council is not in place to work for the majority of Mississaugans; it is there to represent all Mississaugans.

In fact, the second largest group after Christians in this city are those with “No Religious Affiliation.”

There is no prayer to a “higher power”, non-denominational or otherwise, that can avoid alienating this large group of citizens.

Never mind the current practice of excluding over 40 per cent of the population (non-Christians).

Secondly, the “argument from tradition” is about the weakest argument possible.

Any tradition that is not reflective of the population or is counter to the protection of minorities provided by the Constitution does not deserve to be retained.

And let’s be honest here; we’re talking about something introduced by Mayor Hazel McCallion, not something centuries old that might qualify as a legitimate tradition of Mississauga.

Thirdly, the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled prayer at council meetings unconstitutional.

Therefore, the council is in fact acting illegally and must immediately stop the practice.

Fourthly,  “But there are so many other important matters” is really no argument at all.

What could be more important than having our council represent all citizens with equality and within the boundaries of the law?

Let’s hope Derek Gray is successful in convincing Mississauga City Council to stop breaking the law and to start opening its meetings with a call to order.

5 thoughts on “To Pray or Not to Pray

  1. I pray that they stop praying!

  2. I too am hoping Derek Gray is successful but I’m not holding out much hope. What is needed here is en masse delegations to all Ontario municipalities still reciting the prayer. Municipalities are the creation of the province so it is not only a matter to be taken to council it should also be taken to all MPPs. The law is the law and religion does NOT belong in government.

  3. To Cheri Cowan I hope you are wrong about the odds of Derek’s chance of succeeding, but you make an excellent suggestion of having en masse delegations to all town councils breaking the law.

    You are soooooo right about religion NOT belonging in a modern democratic government!

  4. I too am offended by the lack of respect shown by government at all levels which discriminate against ‘free thinkers’. Canada as young as it is, has moved light years beyond stagnant christian ideology and its’ so-called moral superiority. Quite arrogant I must add. This notion of seeking counsel from an imaginary person reflects poorly on what people expect from our politicians and governments, given the responsibilities we hold them to.
    Cheers.

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