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

Caps get back in win column

Cowichan remains unbeaten at home with 5-2 win over Surrey

Candidate corner: Cowichan-Malahat-Langford hopefuls talk environment and climate change

This is part one of a four-part series outlining candidates’ thoughts on key topics

Pumps at Cowichan Lake shut down

Recent rain raised water levels

Cowichan United opens season with draw

Good start to season for Div. 2 women’s soccer team

Review: ‘Mrs. Warren’s Profession’ offers audiences a choice, and a lot to chew on

George Bernard Shaw 19th century morality play still rings true in 2019

‘I shouldn’t have done it,’ Trudeau says of brownface photo

Trudeau says he also wore makeup while performing a version of a Harry Belafonte song

35 of 87 dogs in 2018 Williams Lake seizure were euthanized due to behavioural issues, BCSPCA confirm

The dogs did not respond to the behaviour modification and remained terrified of humans

B.C. ‘tent city’ disputes spark call for local government autonomy

UBCM backs Maple Ridge after province overrules city

B.C. drug dealers arrested after traffic stop near Banff turns into helicopter pursuit

Antonio Nolasco-Padia, 23, and Dina Anthony, 55, both well-known to Chilliwack law enforcement

B.C. MLA calls on province to restrict vaping as first related illness appears in Canada

Todd Stone, Liberal MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, introduced an anti-vaping bill in April

Chilliwack woman wins right to medically assisted death after three-year court battle

Julia Lamb has been the lead plaintiff in a legal battle to ease restrictions on Canada’s assisted dying laws

B.C. bus crash survivor petitions feds to fix road where classmates died

UVic student’s petition well over halfway to 5k signature goal

Most Read