Tuesday, November 18, 2014

No place for prayers in our Parliament

The New Zealand Parliament may be getting a new prayer. But while its shorter, removes the offensive reference to "true religion", and masks its reference to the imaginary sky-fairy by putting it in te reo, the fundamental problem remains: it is still a prayer, and a Christian one at that. And in a country which is committed to freedom of religion (and which is no longer Christian), that's simply not tenable.

In our society religion is not a matter of state, but a private matter, between an individual and whatever entities they believe in. Our Parliament is not supposed to be a bully pulpit for granting a particular religion the official approval of the state, but should be religiously neutral. And the way that is done is not by having a watered down prayer, but by not having one at all. Its a Parliament, not a church.

Meanwhile, the way this is being done - a straight choice between the two alternatives, with no amendments, let alone a "none of the above" option - is terrible, an attempt to strap the chicken for the status quo. Rather than endorse this charade, MPs who favour freedom of religion should deny it legitamacy, and abstain.