Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Prayers for Parliamentary workers

The National Party thinks that allowing Parliamentary Services workers to attend morning Maori prayer sessions is "PC gone mad". I'm not so sure. There's a significant question that noone seems to be asking, namely does Parliament provide equivalent chaplincy services for any other religion?

If the answer is "yes", then there's nothing mad about it; they're simply extending the same courtesy to those with Maori spiritual beliefs as (presumably) Christians. Calling this "PC" is more an inditement of the caller's illiberal attitude towards those holding spiritual beliefs different from their own than a real criticism (but then, isn't it always?)

If on the other hand the answer is "no" - that this is the only religious service established for staff members - then we would indeed have a case of religious discrimination, and the prayer sessions should stop (or equivalent services be offered to others).

I'm a militant secularist, but I understand that other people have spiritual needs - and I have no problem with employers accomodating them, provided it is done in an equal and non-discriminatory way. Which means that if some Parliamentary employees are paid to pray, or study Maori spiritual beliefs, or whatever, then DPF should be paid to drink beer - or at least paid for the time regardless of what he does with it.