In late June 2018, NSW Greens' Senator Lee Rhiannon tabled a motion to replace the prayers traditionally read in the Senate at the start of each day with a more religiously diverse and non-discriminatory statement.
According to Senate Standing Order 50, the following is read out at the start of each day:
Almighty God, we humbly beseech Thee to vouchsafe Thy special blessing upon this Parliament, and that Thou wouldst be pleased to direct and prosper the work of Thy servants to the advancement of Thy glory, and to the true welfare of the people of Australia.
Our Father, which art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Under Senator Rhiannon's proposal, this would be changed to the following:
Senators, let us, in silence, pray or reflect upon our responsibilities to all people of Australia, and to future generations.
This motion was accepted by the Senate and referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Procedure to proceed with an inquiry.
The inquiry was opened to public comment for a period ending on 3 August 2018. Until that time, members of the public are free to visit the Committee's page for this proposal and make a submission in support of it.
We believe this is an important issue for many reasons:
- Sectarian prayers are inconsistent with the religious diversity of the Australian community that MPs are elected to represent.
- Having parliamentary prayers based on one religion only is inappropriate for that religious diversity. The current prayers refer to MPs as servants of a Christian God.
- Federal parliament should not endorse or promote a particular religion. This excludes and devalues those that do not belong to that religion.
- Current prayers may breach the Constitution's requirement of separation of church and state in regards to not "imposing any religious observance".
- The 2016 Census reported that 30% of Australians have no religion, the largest single response group. It is not appropriate for government proceedings to be called to order in the name of a God that a significant proportion of the population do not believe exists.
Although some have chosen to frame it as an "attack on Christianity," this change will ensure fairer representation and greater religious freedom for all Australians.