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

Best of the City: This year’s winners

Nanaimo News Bulletin presents full results of our 2020 Best of the City readers’ survey

Nanaimo under a thunderstorm watch tonight

Environment Canada forecasts downpour and possible thunder and lightning

B.C. Greens hurrying to get candidates in place for provincial election

No candidates announced yet in Nanaimo, Nanaimo-North Cowichan or Parksville-Qualicum

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Cops for Cancer: COVID-19 can’t stop Tour de Rock

‘having the chance to come back and ride this year means everything to me’

Masks and temperature checks now mandatory to enter Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Centre

Mall says it’s the first in B.C. to put the measures in place

Nanaimo RCMP shut down illegal racing and stunt driving site at Duke Point

Police “swoop in” to seize vehicles and issue violation tickets

Snuneymuxw, province sign land transfer agreement that includes parts of Mount Benson

First Nation sees economic development opportunities through forestry partnerships

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

Most Read