The B.C. Humanist Association released a report analyzing the prayers delivered in the B.C. Legislature. (Black Press Media file photo)

Does prayer have a place in the B.C. Legislature?

Study reviews 873 prayers from past 16 years for content, inclusivity

The question of whether or not prayer belongs in the B.C. Legislature spurred a Greater Victoria resident and research coordinator Teale Phelps Bondaroff and folks from the B.C. Humanist Association (BCHA) to take a closer look at the practice of leading the House in prayer and the content of the prayers themselves.

Research began in 2018 and on Sept. 10, the group released a draft of the report analyzing the prayers delivered in the Legislature. Before the regular proceedings, the Speaker invites an MLA to deliver one of five standard prayers or one of their own creation.

With the help of 50 volunteers, the team transcribed all 873 prayers delivered by MLAs and guests between October 2003 and this February. Some prayers were unusual, Phelps Bondaroff noted. There were partisan attacks, mafia-like threats, requests for teachers to see the light and not strike and thanks were given for shipping contracts.

READ ALSO: Sleeveless dresses are OK, B.C. legislature speaker says in dress code update

More than 71 per cent of the prayers were found to be religious or follow a religious prayer structure and the majority were Christian. The prayers also got longer and more religious over the years.

“Prayer in the B.C. Legislature favours Christianity over other faith traditions, favours religious belief over irreligious belief, and violates the state’s duty of religious neutrality,” Phelps Bondaroff noted.

In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that prayer had no place in municipal government as it was exclusionary and non-constitutional. The ruling didn’t address the provincial or federal governments as there is a parliamentary privilege. However, Phelps Bondaroff felt the case would be very interesting if it were brought to court as he noted privilege shouldn’t apply to discrimination.

Phelps Bondaroff also noted that only six per cent of the prayers had Indigenous content – often just one word –and there was never a land acknowledgement.

READ ALSO: Trudeau promises added incentives for first-time home buyers in Greater Victoria

B.C. isn’t the only province that has prayer in the legislature, but BCHA researchers suggested following Quebec’s lead and replace prayer with a moment of reflection. This would have the same benefits as prayer but would be more inclusive, Phelps Bondaroff explained. Two other suggestions were presented in the report: abolish the prayer altogether or replace it with a land acknowledgement.

In recent correspondence with Phelps Bondaroff, the acting clerk, Kate Ryan-Lloyd, pointed out that the practice is currently being reviewed. Phelps Bondaroff noted the review may be a result of the constant emails from the BCHA researchers.

BCHA has organized an online letter-writing campaign for anyone interested to provide feedback to their MLA and the acting clerk on the prayer practice.


@devonscarlett
devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Cowichan District Hospital Foundation tourney renamed in honour of Norm Jackson

After 25 years and almost a million dollars raised, the Cowichan District… Continue reading

Second climate strike to be held in Duncan

Youth organizers invite adults to join the cause

Coming up in Cowichan: Festival, fair and Oktoberfest

Learn about fossil fuel alternatives at Charged Up! festival Sept. 21 The… Continue reading

Guest column: Inheritance under BC Law, Part II — Children & Spouses

A will-maker must fulfill any legal and moral obligations to his/her children

Drivesmart column: No, the armpit belt is not legal

The belt must be worn snugly over the pelvis and collarbone, not the neck.

VIDEO: Liberals make child care pledge, Greens unveil platform on Day 6 of campaign

Green party leader Elizabeth May unveils her party’s platform in Toronto

National weather forecasters predict average fall, cold winter

The Weather Network says precipitation will about average in most parts of Canada

Two dead, two in critical condition in highway crash near Campbell River

Highway 19 reopened Sunday night after it was closed in both directions

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

Federal party leaders address gun violence after weekend shooting near Toronto

One teen was killed and five people injured in the shooting

Scheer makes quick campaign stop in Comox

Conservative leader highlights tax promises early in campaign

Conservatives promise tax cut that they say will address Liberal increases

Scheer says the cut would apply to the lowest income bracket

B.C. VIEWS: Cutting wood waste produces some bleeding

Value-added industry slowly grows as big sawmills close

Fewer trees, higher costs blamed for devastating downturn in B.C. forestry

Some say the high cost of logs is the major cause of the industry’s decline in B.C.

Most Read