12 Apr 2008 Should the Lord’s Prayer be abolished in Ont. legislature?
Article from CTV – The Canadian Press [www.ctvottawa.ca]
TORONTO — Ontario politicians are launching a contentious public consultation over whether to join the majority of other provinces and abolish the reading of the Lord’s Prayer in the legislature.
As an all-party committee prepares to hear from hundreds of faith groups, atheists, and members of the public, there is already a clear division between politicians who think opening the daily proceedings with the Lord’s Prayer is outdated and those who consider it a vital part of Ontario’s tradition.
Premier Dalton McGuinty set the stage for the debate in February, announcing the governing Liberals want to open daily legislative debate with a prayer that is more inclusive and reflective of Ontario’s multiculturalism. Ontario is more than just “Protestants and Catholics today,” he said at the time.
While critics are still skeptical about McGuinty’s motives to spark a debate at a time when no one appeared to be unhappy with the current recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, an all-party committee is now soliciting opinions from everyone from atheists and humanists to Buddhists and Christians.
Members of the public are also being asked to give their two cents through a form on the legislature’s website at www.ontla.on.ca.
“We’ve got some hearing to do,” said Cheri DiNovo, a United Church Minister who is representing the NDP on the committee.
“I think we should be focusing on other things other than the Lord’s Prayer right now in the province of Ontario, but that’s just me. With one in eight children living in poverty, perhaps we could be spending taxpayer dollars to feed them.”
The last time the Ontario legislature updated its daily prayer was in 1969. It is one of the few remaining provinces left – besides Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick – reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
Both the House of Commons and the Senate recite non-denominational prayers.
Conservative Garfield Dunlop, who is on the committee, said his party doesn’t care what other provinces, territories or the federal government are doing. What matters is what is best for Ontario, he said.
The party is open to other forms of prayer in the legislature but they won’t ever support banning the Lord’s Prayer, Dunlop said.
“There is a lot more behind it than just the prayer,” he said. “Our whole British parliamentary system was based on Christianity. That goes right back to the Magna Carta. The first parliamentary sessions held in Great Britain were held in churches . . . Removing one thing is just like chipping away at a foundation. There is no reason to do that.”
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