Pressure builds on Victorian councils to ditch opening Christian prayer

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More than a third of Victorian councils begin their usual monthly meetings with a prayer, and while they are accepting of all religions, the bulk of those 29 councils recognise a Christian God before delving into their goals of “rates, roads, and rubbish.”

According to ABC, the other 50 Victorian councils have now done away with the monotheistic rite, reflecting a broader trend in Australia.

More than 85% of the population was Christian 50 years ago, yet according to the 2021 census, little under 44% of Australians identify as Christian, while 49% identify as other religions or have no faith.

Most Victorian councils that still open meetings with a prayer (indicated here by yellow symbols) are located in the regions. Photo ABC News.
Most Victorian councils that still open meetings with a prayer (indicated here by yellow symbols) are located in the regions. Photo: ABC News.

President of the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV), David Clark, stated that most opening prayers had stayed “pretty much unchanged” since council restructures in the mid-1990s.

Mr Clark added that whilst some councils have made changes to the traditional Christian prayer to better reflect their communities, this might not work for smaller rural communities which typically weren’t as spiritually diverse.

“I think it is for each council to work this through themselves,” he said. “Thinking about the community they’re representing and… what they might do as an alternative.”

Council Watch is instead advocating for the standardisation of the Acknowledgement of Country, which is customary practice in all but one of Victoria’s 79 municipalities.

“We have no problem whatsoever acknowledging that Indigenous people were the original and only first inhabitants of the land… that’s a statement of fact,” Council Watch president, Dean Hurlston said.

“But if we’re going to say that a Christian prayer or a Muslim prayer is not appropriate in a council meeting, we have to be consistent in that position.”

Source: ABC

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