Wanganui District Council – To pray or not to pray

The New Zealand Christian Network says the Wanganui District Council is wrong to overturn an important tradition and stop opening meetings with a Christian prayer.

“Some people seem to have a view that prayer and other aspects of religion need to be excluded from councils and other public forums for them to be truly public. But this is just not correct,” says the New Zealand Christian Network’s Glyn Carpenter.

“For something to be ‘public’ you don’t aim for the lowest common denominator. That’s the path to mediocrity. What you should do is allow space for all voices. This includes Christians, who represent a very significant number of people in our society.

The New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (NZARH) welcomed decision The believe that it represents  “a victory for all the residents of Wanganui and for the wider New Zealand community representing, as it does, the first step towards a true separation between church and state.”

The decision exemplifies just how long the arm of the law can be  because it comes as a result of  a High Court of Justice decision in Britain  last month, in which a judge ruled the recitation of a prayer during Local Government Body  meeting was not lawful under its Local Government Act.

That judgement has lead to the compromise reached by in the Wanganui District Council about whether or not the Council’s meetings should open with a Christian prayer.  It is the threat of a costly legal challenge that  persuaded Wanganui District Council to overturn 170 years’ tradition of opening meetings with a Christian prayer and to over-turned an earlier resolution to keep the prayer as a formal item of business on the council agenda.

The compromise resolution permits a separate, informal prayer session to take place  before each meeting. However some councillors remain  dissatisfied and want religion banished altogether.


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