Municipal Prayer

I wanted to let everyone know a little bit about what has been going on with municipal prayer lately.

As some of you may know, the Mayor and Council of Saguenay, Quebec, were recently found to be in violation of Quebec’s human rights code because of the prayer that they recite at their council meetings.  The Quebec Human Rights Tribunal fined them on two counts at $15,000 each for a total of $30,000.

The Mayor and Council have decided to appeal the decision and are accepting donations to help with their appeal.  So far over $100,000 have come in.  The case could potentially go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Closer to home, Quinte Humanist member Dagmar Gontard has complained to her council (Hastings Highlands) over their recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at council meetings.  We are awaiting a decision of Secular Ontario whether or not to proceed with court action.  In Ontario, the Ontario Court of Appeal decided in 1999 that the municipal councils were in violation of the law in reciting a distinctly religious prayer (i.e., the Lord’s Prayer).  The court did make a statement that other more general prayers could be recited but not a particularly religious (i.e., Christian) prayer.

Both Dagmar and Bill Kilpatrick have written letters to the editors of the two Bancroft newspapers and have created a small tempest in the community.  The editors seem to be sympathetic to what they are trying to do. [See Bill's Post below].

Here in Belleville, I have checked out both Hastings County council and Belleville City council.  Hastings County recites the Lord’s Prayer.

Here is what Belleville recites:

ALMIGHTY GOD, THE SOURCE OF ALL WISDOM AND TRUTH, BLESS US AS WE MEET TO CONSIDER THE BUSINESS OF THIS COUNCIL.
GIVE US WISDOM OF MIND AND CHARITY OF SPIRIT AS WE TAKE COUNSEL TOGETHER, SO THAT THE DECISIONS WE MAKE SHALL PROMOTE THE WELFARE OF OUR CITY.
HELP US TO BE HONEST WITHOUT TENSION AND FRANK WITHOUT OFFENCE.
GRANT TO US VISION, ENCOURAGEMENT AND THE ASSURANCE THAT WHEN WE SERVE OUR CITY AT OUR BEST
WE ARE SERVING THEE.  AMEN.

I almost prefer the Lord’s Prayer.

Anyway, big decisions to be made.  Will Secular Ontario take on Hastings Highland or go for the Big One and take on the County?  Or maybe both?

My only regret is that they won’t take on Belleville City council.  That monstrosity of a prayer is what the Ontario Court of Appeal said was okay.

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One Response to Municipal Prayer

  1. Jeff B. says:

    Regarding the Belleville prayer, I would be sorely tempted to introduce a motion calling for the right of an attendee to decline any or all divine offers of wisdom, and to limit the scope of his/her actions to merely serving the city.