Almighty God, humbly acknowledging our need for Thy guidance in all things, and laying aside all private and personal interests, we beseech Thee to grant that we may conduct the affairs of this House and of our country to the glory of Thy holy name, the maintenance of true religion and justice, the honour of the Queen, and the public welfare, peace, and tranquillity of New Zealand, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Speaking in my personal capacity, I think it’s time to have a discussion around it. Like many Kiwis and MPs I am not a Christian and I don’t think the prayer reflects the rich and varied religious and spiritual life in New Zealand in 2013. To me, it’s an issue of having Parliament – the representatives of the people of New Zealand – actually reflect the people of New Zealand rather than only one religious group. We should have an inclusive ceremonial opening that all kiwis can feel comfortable with, whatever their faith.
Not all Parliaments around the world have a prayer, though most inherited the practice from growing out of Britain’s Westminster model. South Africa’s National Assembly and parts of Canada have a moment of silence for personal reflection for MPs. In Scotland, they rotate speakers of different affiliations to reflect the make-up of the census. One week they might have a Christian speaker, and another a speaker with no religious affiliations.
There are three major options as I see it:
- The status quo of a Christian prayer
- Change the prayer so it isn’t exclusively Christian, but a general spiritual prayer
- Have no prayer at all
My preference is 2. I could make a case for 3, but people don’t have to take part in a prayer if they don’t want to. However having a prayer which is exclusive to one religion is not a good thing, and is a bad precedent.