Senate supports Greens motion change to opening prayers


Today the Senate has supported a Greens motion requiring the Senate Procedure Committee to set up an inquiry into changing the Senate opening from a Christian prayer to an inclusive statement.

Senator Lee Rhiannon, Greens spokesperson for Democracy moved the motion to make the Senate more respectful of our nation’s diverse and multicultural population.

The move comes after religious leaders of various faiths across NSW and ACT, including Father Rod Bower, Rev Dr Margaret Mayman and Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins, wrote to Senators proposing that the wording be amended to respect the nation’s religious diversity.

The proposed new statement reads: Senators, let us in silence pray or reflect upon our responsibilities to all people of Australia and to future generations.

Senator Rhiannon said, “We support the practice of Parliamentarians at the opening of each sitting day taking time to seriously reflect on their responsibility to the people of Australia and future generations.

“The Greens believe the statement that opens parliament should be inclusive of people of all beliefs and faiths.

“We are suggesting the proposed new opening statement be referred to the Senate’s Procedure Committee for a public inquiry that better reflects the secular nature of our country and our parliament.

“Australia should be free from religious bias and not impose religious influence on citizens or parliamentarians. We should work for religious tolerance in the structures of parliament.

“Parliament should remain separate from any religious institution and our proposed new statement will help achieve that. Pitt Street Uniting Church’s Rev Dr Margaret Mayman said, “It is time for the Senate to move on from an opening prayer that belongs to the era when Christianity as the majority religion in Australia was given precedence over other faiths and belief systems. It is time to embrace words that are inclusive and respectful of religious diversity.

“The Senate should set an example for society by encouraging respect in the public sphere for all religious individuals and groups, and for people who express their spirituality and ethics in secular ways.

“The proposed change is in accord with the right to Religious Freedom and expresses the aspirations of all Australians who seek a society which promotes human flourishing.