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.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dead salmon fry found in Terrace stream prompts response from City

Public Works crews are marking storm drains to raise awareness of salmon habitat vulnerability

RCMP bust five impaired drivers in one day in Terrace and Kitimat

Police were doing road checks as part of distracted driving, seatbelt enforcement campaign

Horgan makes campaign stop in Terrace and Kitimat

BC NDP leader met with local First Nations leaders, reiterated campaign promises

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

FINLAYSON: COVID-related job losses concentrated in urban areas… especially Metro Vancouver

The biggest job losses, in absolute terms, have been in Metro Vancouver

6 puppies rescued in mass seizure on Princeton farm die from illness: BC SPCA

Of the 97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized, most of the puppies suffered from parvo

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

Family and Indigenous organizations push for thorough investigation

U.S. boater fined $1,000 for violation of Quarantine Act

49-year-old man entered Canada to visit girlfriend in Surrey

More sex abuse charges laid against B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’

Investigators now focussing efforts on alleged victims within the Glad Tidings Church community

B.C. VOTES 2020: Businesses now owe $6 billion in deferred tax payments

COVID-19 relief from remittance to province ends with September

Most Read