New Zealand Law Society - Committee considers petition to remove religion from parliamentary prayer

Committee considers petition to remove religion from parliamentary prayer

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Parliament's Governance and Administration Committee has reported on a petition to remove religion from parliamentary prayer, oaths, and national anthem and recommends that the House take note of its report.

The committee received written submissions from the petitioner and the Speaker of the House and oral evidence from the Speaker of the House.

The petitioner, John Trezise, submitted that following the massacre at the mosques in Christchurch “it became apparent that some New Zealanders have a “Dominionist” view of Christianity, and regard it as culturally pre-eminent and to some extent state-sanctioned”. He argued that New Zealand is a country for all faiths and views and that New Zealand’s expressions of national identity can only be truly inclusive if all expressions of religion are removed.

The Speaker, Trevor Mallard, changed the recital of the prayer when he became Speaker to make it less exclusively Christian and acknowledged that this decision did not please everyone. The Speaker told the committee that he was not aware of any strong support for replacing the prayer with a non-religious statement; however he is willing to consider doing so if it is the preference of the members.

The committee acknowledged the petitioner’s intent and felt that no further action was required at this point.