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MPs get it way wrong with prayer vote

Starting the House of Commons day with a prayer is unconstitutional
For your consideration - Thom Barker

It is appalling that the House of Commons starts each day with a prayer, and very interesting that they do this in secret before the cameras are turned on and the public and media are allowed in.

Even more appalling is a motion last week to end this archaic and unconstitutional practice was soundly defeated.

A whopping 266 MPs voted nay on the Bloc Quebecois motion that would have replaced the prayer with a moment of reflection.

Let’s kill the elephant in the room right now. No, in no way would ending the prayer infringe on the rights of the religious majority, specifically Christians, that’s just silly.

MPs have the constitutional right to pray on their own time whenever they want, wherever they want and to whom or whatever they want.

What continuing the prayer does, though, is perpetuate infringing the rights of religious people of other faiths and non-religious people.

In case you’re wondering, that is no longer an insignificant proportion of the population.

As of the 2016 census, only 55 per cent of Canadians identified as Christian while 29 per cent reported no affiliation and 14 per cent reported affiliation with other faiths.

Furthermore, even among those who report a religious affiliation, only one in five attends services weekly and only 29 per cent pray daily.

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But none of that should matter — I only bring it up to illustrate that it is not a mere handful of people who are being excluded by the daily practices of the House of Commons.

Even if there is only one person who feels excluded by Parliament favouring one religion over others and over non-religion, it’s too many.

And the Supreme Court of Canada has stated as much. The Saguenay decision ruled reciting religious prayers at the beginning of municipal council meetings violates the right to freedom of conscience and religion and that the “duty of neutrality requires the state to abstain from favouring one religious view over another.”

The fact that only 56 of our 338 elected representatives seem to get this very fundamental principle of separation of church and state, should be very worrisome to all of us.

We should also quickly dismiss the ridiculous and spineless argument that the Bloc should not have used their opposition day to bring the motion.

Even if that is true, it is not a valid reason to vote against it.

I want to personally congratulate Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach for doing the right thing and voting for the motion.

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Thom Barker

About the Author: Thom Barker

After graduating with a geology degree from Carleton University and taking a detour through the high tech business, Thom started his journalism career as a fact-checker for a magazine in Ottawa in 2002.
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