Many British Columbia Municipalities Open Meetings with Prayer, Breaking the Law November 25, 2020

Many British Columbia Municipalities Open Meetings with Prayer, Breaking the Law

In 2015, the Canadian Supreme Court unanimous ruled that the city of Saguenay, in Quebec, violated citizens’ rights by opening city council meetings with prayer.

That should’ve put an end to the matter across the nation.

It did not.

In fact, according to a report released yesterday by the British Columbia Humanist Association, 23 cities across that one province alone still included prayers to open their inaugural sessions in 2018. (Choosing a specific date after the Supreme Court ruling gave the group a set point to compare across the board.)

Their research found that those prayers were “100% Christian” despite the fact that fewer than half of citizens in the province identify as such. Also, all but one municipality offered a single prayer; the only one that didn’t had two prayers “both of which were delivered by members of the clergy of Christian sects.”

Since doing this research, the BC Humanists say four of the 23 municipalities have “amended their policies to remove prayer from their future council meetings.” They’re “optimistic” more will follow suit:

We are optimistic going forward, as a result of our research and correspondence with these municipalities, that fewer inaugural meetings will include a prayer and in so doing, be more inclusive. The findings of this study, however, highlight the need to verify compliance with court decisions, and the vital role of ongoing research into issues of the separation of religion and government. The BCHA will be sure to remind municipalities of their duty of religious neutrality prior to the next round of inaugural meetings in 2022, and carefully monitor compliance with Saguenay to ensure that no one, regardless of religious belief or lack thereof, is excluded from decision-making in BC.

What good is a nation of laws when public officials refuse to abide by even the simple ones? Everyone can pray on their own time; city council meetings must remain secular.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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