Christian Nationalism and church-state mixing are rampant in the United States, but we’re not the only ones dealing with this. For over 100 years, the Lord’s Prayer has been recited every time the Australian state of Victoria’s parliament sits. Now, this tradition might finally be scrapped.
This fight for religious equality is spearheaded by Reason Party founder Fiona Patten, who moved to replace the prayer with a moment of silence. That would allow politicians to independently pray (or not) — and rightly so, Patten told the Australian Associated Press:
We’ve got members of parliament from many diverse backgrounds, including Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, which wasn’t the case when prayer was first introduced into parliament…
We should be doing everything we can to be as inclusive as possible and not to privilege one religion over another at the beginning of parliament.
She went on to explain that, as an atheist, she is “among several MPs who wait outside the chamber until the prayer is over.” So does Victorian Greens Leader Samantha Ratnam, who echoed Patten’s sentiment:
Frankly, I was quite shocked when I entered the Victorian parliament about how backwards it was, how exclusionary and elitist it was…
We should be reflecting the diversity of the Victorian community and doing everything that we can to make it a more inclusive place.
But what’s a call for equality and religious diversity without some conservative schmuck whining about “cancel culture”? Opposition leader Michael O’Brien griped, “God is now subject to cancel culture, apparently.”
(You would think that his God is powerful enough to hear prayers that are uttered silently instead of at government meetings, but apparently not.)
But Patten’s request is hardly a done deal. Premier Daniel Andrews said bluntly, “This is not on my list, let alone at the top of my list,” suggested instead that they rotate between different faiths’ prayers to reflect diversity.
That seems oddly complicated compared to simply observing a moment of silence. And, by the way, the prayer rotation would still exclude atheists.
For now, further discussion on the topic has ended after Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes promised to take another look at the matter if the Labor Party maintains control of the government in 2022. Even Patten welcomed that news:
[Patten] supported the government’s decision to focus its attention on the health and economic crisis.
“This is a compelling change and it’s based on evidence that parliament needs to evolve with the community,” she told parliament.
“No particular faith or religious tradition should have the monopoly of our ever-changing society.”
It’s a fair concession given the circumstances. While I don’t sympathize with the conservatives who go out of their way to ignore the topic of abolishing government-sanctioned prayer, there are literal life and death issues that are more pressing. And even though Australia does not have a clear constitutional separation of church and state, it is refreshing to see people fighting to keep them separate anyway. State and church both work best for everyone when they aren’t mixed.
(Screenshot via YouTube)