NSW Greens renew push to end state parliament prayers

The NSW Greens have renewed their push to abolish prayers in state parliament, saying the tradition is “absurd” and alienating to the wider community.

Prayers, accompanied by an acknowledgment of the country, are read at the opening of each sitting day of the NSW parliament – a tradition first developed in 1934 and mirrored in other state and territory parliaments, as well as in the federal parliament.

“I think it’s nonsense,” Greens MP Abigail Boyd told AAP of the tradition.

“When I worked at Kmart, we didn’t have to get up and listen to the Lord’s Prayer before opening all the registers,” she added.

“I think most people in the real world think it’s pretty amazing – it’s something we do.”

While Boyd isn’t convinced her motion will receive broad support, momentum to remove the Christian tradition from public institutions is growing across the country, according to Rationalist Society of Australia president Meredith Doig.

“People want change, and that includes changing the tradition of favoring one religion over another,” Doig told AAP.

NSW councils, including Shoalhaven and Wagga Wagga, had already chosen to make the switch, moving instead to a moment of quiet reflection, she said.

Boyd previously launched an unsuccessful motion to have the prayer scrapped in 2019, opposed by both Labor and the government.

Any motion to remove the prayer from Australian parliaments would not be backed by Liberal MP Tanya Davies.

“I support the continuation of prayer, including the Lord’s Prayer, in parliaments across the country,” Davies told AAP.

“It is a reminder to all MPs to serve with humility, conviction, compassion, justice and fairness.”

A spokesman for NSW Labor said he did not intend to support the motion.

Motions to change the tradition were hotly opposed by incumbent Labor MP Walt Secord, whose office was flooded with calls against the idea when it was first floated.

“We are a parliament, not a student council,” he said in 2019.

“Amazingly, followers of non-Christian religions, including Hindus and Muslims, saw it as an attack on all believers, not just the Lord’s Prayer.”

The reading of Christian prayers ultimately served to discourage diversity in parliament, Boyd insisted.

She said she believed that continuing to read the prayer amounted to reiterating Christianity as the norm.

“Parliament is quite amazing when it comes to its lack of diversity,” Boyd added.

The Rationalist Society will host a webinar with Ms on their efforts to remove the Lord’s Prayer from public institutions on Wednesday evening.

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