Although 49.8 per cent of citizens in the Brisbane City Council area are not Christian (according to the 2016 census), the Lord Mayor of Brisbane is insisting that a prayer must continue to kick off every council meeting because of 'tradition'.
Last weekend, Councillor Adrian Schrinner rejected out of hand a petition calling for the removal of prayers from council proceedings – weeks before the petition is due to close and before council members even have a chance to consider it.
“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,” Cr Schrinner told the Courier Mail, adding the tradition started in the United Kingdom in 1558.
Petitioner Courtney Coombs was perplexed at this response, telling us: “I’m not sure how a tradition that began in the 16th century is relevant to contemporary society.”
National Secular Lobby president Peter Monk says ‘tradition’ is a poor reason to continue doing something that is out of step with modern society.
"Society evolves. Indentured servitude used to be a tradition, too. Women could not vote or own property. Gay couples could not marry."
"We don't hold on to traditions simply because they are traditions; we hold on to them because they remain relevant. Without relevance, a tradition loses its meaning."
“Australians want their governments to be secular. It is not right that government continues to include the recitation of scripture from one specific belief system as part of its official procedures. We think Brisbane City Council is a great place to start the process of removing this tradition from our governing institutions.
"Brisbane residents deserve to have a council that fully represents all of them, not just some.”
Any Australian, whether in Brisbane or elsewhere, can add their name to the petition here before 31 August.
At the National Secular Lobby, we're pleased to have joined forces with a number of pro-secular community organisations in the #DontDivideUs campaign against the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill. Add your voice to the campaign.