No prayers in Council meetings

Principal Petitioner Carmen Seaby, St Lucia
Date Closed Mon, 31 Jul 2017 This epetition has ended
No. of signatures 493 signatures

(View signatures)

This petition raises concern that a prayer is recited during Brisbane City Council meetings.

- The Queensland Constitution does not state that Queensland is a Christian state.

- Our secular system of government requires separation of church and state.

- Prayers during Council meetings are imposing the beliefs of one religion in an elected public forum. This compromises government impartiality.

- Ratepayers don't expect to pay elected representatives to say prayers during Council meetings.

- A Christian prayer may be inappropriate to Councillors, Council staff, and citizens of other faiths, or no faith.

- Census results show the decrease of Christianity and an increase of non-Christian religions in Australia. Why does Council publicly favour Christian over non-Christian religions?

- Census results show increasing numbers of Australians have no religion. Only 5% of Australians regularly attend church services and less than 30% of weddings are performed in churches.

- The Canadian Supreme Court in 2015 ruled unanimously that Saguenay Council reciting a prayer during official meetings is unlawful. The judgement said the state must "remain neutral" in matters of religious belief. "This neutrality requires that the state neither favour nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non-belief. It requires that the state abstain from taking any position and thus avoid adhering to a particular belief."

Your petitioners request that Council remove religious prayers and references from all Council business, thereby confirming government impartiality in matters of religious belief.

Council response

Thank you for your petition requesting that Council remove religious prayers and references from all Council business.

Your petition has been investigated and it was considered by Council at its meeting held on 5 September 2017. It was decided that the petitioners be advised of the information below.

The reading of a prayer is a Westminster tradition and commenced in the United Kingdom in 1558, and was common practice by 1567. In the Australian Federal Parliament a prayer has been read at the beginning of meetings of the House of Representatives and Senate since 1901. The Queensland Parliament commenced reading a prayer to open proceedings of meetings in 1860 and has continued to this day.

The first minuted mention of Council meetings being opened with a prayer was in 1960. On 21 February 2017, an acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land was included in the opening of Council meetings following the prayer.

As the reading of a prayer is a long standing tradition in all levels of government in Australia, this practice will continue to be followed during Council meetings.