Local body politician objects to non-christian prayers

A Manawatū District councillor is not backing down from his opinion about the use of non-Christian prayers at council meetings.

Steve Bielski says he would not accept Muslims or any non-Christians praying at the council because they believed in different gods.

Councillors were discussing a proposal to invite members of different faiths to open meetings with a prayer, a job that’s traditionally been done by local Christian leaders.

Bielski told RNZ he only said those things because the press was not present and it was in the confidence of the meeting.

But he stood by his comments.

“Obviously if I said it there, and if it’s not twisted and everything like that I would stand by it because that’s exactly what it is.

I tell you what, there is a lot of things said when the press are not there because we have the confidence to talk about some things,” he said.

Fellow councillor Shane Casey witnessed the outburst at last month’s meeting.

“A councillor was not happy that we were considering bringing in other faiths.

The councillor’s mannerism was agitated and upset and was quite adamant the council should only be opened by, you know, a Christian group.

Casey said he does not agree with Mr Bielski. He said however, that everyone was entitled to their opinions and how they feel.

In 1989 the Manāwatu District Council adopted a prayer addressed to “Almighty God” but without reference to any religious denomination.

The Council changed its policy and from 17 December 2009.  Since then the Council meetings have been opened with prayer by members of the Feilding Christian Leaders Association on a rotational basis. They use their own prayers.

Last year, Local Government NZ president Dave Cull said councils were free to open meetings how they choose.


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