Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Prayer at Mississauga City Council

I am reliably informed that meetings of the Mississauga City Council1 still begin with a prayer. I'm not sure why city councilors feel the need for extra divine guidance since Mayor Hazel McCallion2 is already present in the room.

Like most places in Canada, Mississauga is a diverse community with a substantial number of nonbelievers and a substantial number of non-Christians. Prayer has no place in a secular society and beginning a City Council meeting with prayer sends out all the wrong messages. Imagine that you are a nonbeliever waiting to petition City Council over some grievance and you have to watch your council member praying before you can speak.

I have no idea which council members are religious and what religion they prefer but it doesn't matter. Even if all of them are devoutly religious it's still not proper for them to begin meetings with a prayer. You'd think that would be obvious to any intelligent adult in Canada in the 21st century.

If you want to learn more about this issue come to Prayer in Canadian Public Spaces?, a lecture by Lauren Forbes sponsored by the Canadian Secular Alliance and supported by the Centre for Inquiry, Canada.

The vast majority of governments in Ontario have recognized what's right and proper in a secular society and they do not mix prayer or other expressions of religion belief with public service. Fortunately, when some city councils refuse to do what is ethical and proper we have courts that hopefully will bring them to their senses.

This issue was decided by the Court of Appeal of Ontario back in September, 1999 in a case involving the recital of the Lord's prayer at city council meetings in Penetanguishene. The court ruled that reciting the Lord's prayer is unconstitutional. Here's the judgement ...
The practice of the Town of Penetanguishene and of the Mayor of opening the Town Council and committee meetings by asking the councillors to rise and recite with him the Lord’s Prayer infringes the appellant’s Charter right to freedom of religion under s. 2(a) and cannot be saved under s. 1. The appellant is entitled to a remedy under s. 24(1) of the Charter.

The appeal is therefore allowed. The judgment below is set aside and judgment is granted declaring that the practice of the Town is unconstitutional and enjoining the Town Council from continuing to require or permit the Lord’s Prayer to be recited by members of Council at the commencement of its meetings. The appellant shall have his costs both here and below.
While this decision refers specifically to the Lord's prayer—an overtly Christian prayer—it's clear from the ruling that any form of religious prayer will also be unconstitutional.

It's surprising that some city councils insist on behaving badly but it's even more surprising that they insist on breaking the law once their bad behaviour has been shown to be not only unethical, but also illegal.

There are several additional complaints before the courts and they will undoubtedly result in the same decision and the awarding of costs and penalties. I'm hoping Veronica Abbas will give us an update on her lawsuit and others she might know about. Meanwhile, if you live in Mississauga you should write to your city councilor and urge them to obey both the law and their civic duty. I have contacted my councilor, Katie Mahoney, and she supports the mayor and the prayer.

If you hear from your councilor let me know what their position is. You can send me an email or add a comment below.

1.Mississauga is just west of Toronto. It's the 6th largest city in Canada with a population of >700,000.

2. Hazel is 93 years old. She has been mayor since 1978.


  1. I will be there and will give an update. The lawyer representing my case for Secular Ontario may attend as well.

    I am compiling a list of municipalities in Ontario and in Canada where the Lord's Prayer or a prayer is recited at the start of city councils. If anyone would like to add a municipality to my list, please contact me

  2. LOL – “I'm not sure why city councilors feel the need for extra divine guidance since Mayor Hazel McCallion2 is already present in the room.” ... hilarious!

    @ Larry

    What are your feelings of valuing loyalty to a Judeo-Christian heritage as the foundation of our Society along the same lines the great Greek and Roman thinkers (such as the Stoics) who admittedly paid lip service to the pantheon of gods and goddesses? They still valued the sense of cultural identity and social cohesion that deference to mythology permitted?

    I see prayer in public office today no differently. Belief in some notion of celestial Santa Claus is not required to impart meaning to ritual. I am thinking along the lines of Buddhist chants to collect one‘s thoughts before proceeding with business.

    Ritual and abeyance to mythology can pay utilitarian dividends even if the theological underpinnings are specious.

    I fear the secular alternative you espouse is fraught with unintended and unforeseen consequences.

    Who could have guessed that Rome, Europe’s greatest Empire Europe would have collapsed at the hands of a rag-tag collection of misfit barbarians (my ancestors actually) who crossed the frozen Rhine River at Mainz in 406 CE?

    Within 70 years, a 12 century old empire perished after Rome was swamped with economic refugees who desired the affluence; but under no circumstances embraced the identity or patriotic loyalty required of Roman citizens.

    I wonder out loud if the “West” today is little different; where today’s “multi-culturalism” may be nothing less than a reprise of a failed multi-ethnic Pax Romana.

    It took a while, but Rome’s destruction was sealed when Christian mobs destroyed anything “pagan” including every shrine and statue epitomizing loyalty to Roman civilization and culture. Rome disintegrated from within!

    Ironically, today is the same but different: as today’s iconoclasts today smash a national heritage founded on a Judeo-Christian identity.

    No society is eternal. Nonetheless, well-intentioned but misguided policy advocating secular ideals should not allow a divisive version of multi-culturalism to destroy what remains of social cohesion.

    Permit me to suggest an excellent albeit provocative read:

    1. Have you considered that you're a bigoted xenophobe?

    2. re: Have you considered that you're a bigoted xenophobe?"

      LOL -

      I attempted to preface my diatribe with "advocatus diaboli" but messed up the html code.

      I admit that referring to my German ancestors as "a rag-tag collection of misfit barbarians" - savages really, who almost destroyed Western Civilization could be interpreted as my being a "bigoted xenophobe".


      I did manage to include "/advocatus diaboli" in the next post...

      ITMT - it would appear you have bigger xenophobic fish to fry with some posts below...

      ... that all said, I do urge you to read Mark Steyn's After America: Get Ready for Armageddon

      ...a compelling read although I admit I do not agree with his entire thesis.

    3. Re Tom Mueller

      Mark Steyn is a Fascist nutcase, like his fellow Islamophobe nutcases Pam Geller and Debbie Schlussel. They only prove that Jews are not immune from Fascism

    4. @ colnago80 re: "Mark Steyn is a Fascist nutcase, like his fellow Islamophobe nutcases..."

      You make that sound like a bad thing!


      FTR - Steyn was born in Toronto. He was baptized a Catholic and later confirmed in the Anglican Church... not that any of that should matter.

      Now revisiting the subject of bigotry...

    5. Re Tom Mueller

      Mark Steyn is a Fascist nutcase, like his fellow Islamophobe nutcases..."

      You make that sound like a bad thing!

      So Mueller admires Mussolini and Schickelgruber. Well, Mussolini supposedly made the trains run on time and Schickelgruber built the Autobahn, set up the Volkswagen company, and was more successful at reducing unemployment then Roosevelt was.

    6. colnago80

      If I inadvertently insulted you my apologies… I meant you no offense. If you are bent on tuning this exchange into a mudslinging insultfest, I have no interest to play along and this will be my last post to you. Go and insult mregnor instead, he seems to enjoy public cyber-flagellation.

      That all said – I think you owe me an apology.

      You have obviously misconstrued my message. Allow me to elaborate.

      First of all – I was playing advocatus diaboli – devil’s advocate. I was presenting an extreme point of view that I not necessarily agreed with - for the sake of argument… that is what “advocatus diaboli” means.

      Please read what was written.

      In my original post, I suggested that the naïve embrace of secular multiculturalism as currently practised in Canada and in Western Europe was idealistic and well-intentioned – laudable actually - but has proven to be an ideologically bankrupt failure.

      No – I never suggested that a Judeo-Christian heritage was superior to Islam or to any other [fill-in-the-blank] Weltanschauung. I never suggested that JudeoChristianity is correct and everything else is wrong!

      Reread my post… the Christian overthrow of Roman pagan civilization almost destroyed Western Civilization and its recovery was a historical fluke!

      I now draw your attention to the difference between two disasters: Hurricane Katrina and Fukushima.

      The fact that Japan enjoys a sense of cultural identity and social cohesion which North America & Europe no longer enjoy could possibly explain why Japan’s tragic disaster did not devolve into a social dissolution that required the intervention of the military.

      No… I am not now suggesting that Japanese Budhism/Shintoism is superior to JudeoChristianity. The above does not imply that I am now a Japanese bigot, some Nipponochauvinist or occidentophobe.

      FTR - I do not agree with everything that Mark Steyn writes, but find his arguments provocative and worthy of consideration.

      That said – the political correctness of “secular multiculturalism” notwithstanding, the whole notion may require a rethink; on that point Mark Steyn and I agree.

      Finally – I have one last link for your consideration:

      p.s. Today is Purim and I need to run off right now to take my kids to shul.

      p.p.s Can we please bury the hatchet and resume our exchanges with civility - again I apologise if I in any way offended you... I meant you no offense.

  3. That lady looks like she's about to kick you in the balls.

    1. Oh, she's a ballbuster alright. You don't mess with Hurricane Hazel.

    This article in the National Post about prayers at city council meetings in Saskatoon includes mention of prayers at many smaller municipalities:
    "Mr. Donauer says prayer is still a valued ritual in Western Canada — he checked with legislatures and municipalities in the region and found many of them still say one ahead of session — and it should be maintained in the city of Saskatoon."
    It doesn't look like this is specific to the Lord's Prayer, just praying more generally at official events.
    "Officials with the City of Saskatoon said council does not routinely say a prayer ahead of meetings."

    I don't know if anything has changed around here since October. I'm guessing not, so presumably Saskatoon City Council meetings still start with a prayer of some kind at least some of the time.

  5. "Officials with the City of Saskatoon said council does not routinely say a prayer ahead of meetings."

    My research indicates that Saskatoon City Council meeting do not start with a prayer; they start with "O Canada"

  6. Trying to beat out Coyne for "Censor of the Year 2015", Larry?

    If you don't like prayers, don't pray.

    I find it amusing that you have blog posts lamenting cuts in public funding for science, and blog posts demanding censorship of prayer, and you don't see any connection between the two.

    The solution to totalitarian atheist assholes like you is to defund you.

    1. The connection, for those unacquainted with the bizarre process that passes for "thinking" in Dr. Egnor's head, is this:

      Atheist scientists like Larry piss off theist politicians by criticizing religion.

      And so these theist politicians retaliate by cutting funding to scientific research.

      And Dr. Egnor thinks this is a good thing.

      Yes, he's that much of a moron.

    2. Cutting science funding to the bone is a wonderful thing: most of the stuff that makes it into journals is crap, data massaging is ubiquitous, peer review is a joke, and the science profession has become just another bunch of corrupt self-interested government contractors. Climate science is a crime syndicate, and evolutionary biology is an atheist priesthood.

      You buttholes have far too high an opinion of yourselves. Most of you would struggle to make it in the drive-in window at McDonalds. You have few marketable skills.

    3. lutesuite:

      You're dumber than Larry. Larry doesn't "piss off politicians"-- he pisses off the public, who are catching on to what scientists really think of them, and they elect politicians who are less enamored of scientists.

      Science funding gets cut by the people, because they are slowly catching on to who and what you bastards are.

    4. So says the psychotic parasite whose entire way of life is a the result of the work of people like Larry Moran and Jerry Coyne.

      mregnor would be busy tearing the hearts out of living victims atop central american pyramids in his ideal world and he would fit right in.

      This is coming from a "neurosurgeon" who I suspect believes that the maladies of his patients are due to original sin and evil spirits.

      The good thing about this slime is that at least he is honest enough to say out loud what he really thinks, unlike a lot of the religious.

    5. mregnor spews ignorantly:


      You're dumber than Larry.

      I will readily admit to that.

      Larry doesn't "piss off politicians"-- he pisses off the public, who are catching on to what scientists really think of them, and they elect politicians who are less enamored of scientists.

      Science funding gets cut by the people, because they are slowly catching on to who and what you bastards are.

      If some secularist made that claim, he would be a delusional conspiracy theorist. When you make it, you are something worse than that.

    6. BTW, some facts to counter Dr. Egnor's masturbation fantasies (look at slides 14-24):


      Michael Egnor: Delusional IDiot, bald faced liar, or both? Maybe someone should run an opinion poll on that question.

    7. A note to Prof. Moran.

      I don't see any need to refrain from given asshole Egnor the heave ho. There is no necessity for allowing him to call you names on your own blog.

      Just for the record, asshole Egnor lacks sufficient intelligence to carry Prof. Moran's brief case.

    8. conagoIQof80:

      Pretty funny. I call you a bunch of censors, and your reply is to demand that I be censored.

      The degree of respect that I have for Larry is his willingness to abide free discussion on his blog, as I do on mine.

      I hate censors.

    9. And the Canadian government's dictating to scientists that they may or may not communicate to the public is so totally not censorship. Right, Egnor.

      For my part, I vote Larry keep you here forever. You provide secularism and evolution invaluable support with your every imbecilic utterance.

    10. Re Schmucknor

      Excuse me, neither Prof. Moran or anyone else is in any way, shape, form, or regard obligated to allow you to insult him on his own blog in the name of free speech. Your rights end where his nose begins.

    11. Smegnor: demanding that politicians cut off the funding of scientists who present EVIDENCE inconvenient for corporate fascism is censorship.

      You demands that politicians cut the funding of all scientists who present EVIDENCE that does not serve his fascistic, right-wing totalitarian agenda.

      How is that not censorship?

    12. Smegnor has blogged at ENV about Larry's post here; Smegnor demands that pols cut funding for all science because scientists are dummies:

      The ENV blog post was instantly tweeted by Klinghitler, to whom I have responded via Twitter.

    13. P.S. Of course I oppose banning Smegnor. He's the only Disco Tute stormtrooper with the courage to show up here and get his tail kicked properly. The rest of the Discoveroids go running.

      Smegnor is our bayonet dummy.

    14. I agree. He deserves to be preserved in formaldehyde as a showcase exhibit.

    15. Re Gasiorowski and Diogenes

      I can't agree that Schmuckor should not be given the heave ho. He has personally made insulting comments about our host and should not be allowed to get away with it. Prof. Moran gave John Kwok the heave ho for a lot less.

    16. The reason John Kwok was banned is given here:

  7. This is a Christian civilization and God being noted should be the way of public discourse. because of variety its okay to be vague about the creator. foreigners have gained this country and should respect our beliefs and most would and don't mind religious things as their own nations do likewise. People can get along.
    it seems opposition to prayer is a opposition to God as a truth and a heritage of seeing God as a truth.
    In short its a personal anti-faith imposing on the rest.
    Canada was blessed by God, especially English Canada, and this as a reflection of the faiths of its american and british immigrants. Non Quebec cAnada is a very Protestant nation, culture, and people in moral and intellectual foundations and the whole building.
    The further from this we go the further from our traditional dominance in the world. The rest will catch up. We need prayer. Maybe some fasting and sackcloth.
    As a creationist internet warrior I need prayer. My opponents need it too.

    1. This is a Christian civilization and God being noted should be the way of public discourse. because of variety its okay to be vague about the creator.

      I can't comment on the situation in Canada but the US is manifestly not a Christian civilization. There is no mention of god in the Constitution and there is explicitly separation of church and state.

      Here's what Thomas Jefferson had to say on the subject:

      Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

      Here's John Adams;

      The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion

    2. I'm not going to argue about it but your wrong .
      Its nothing to do with government. its about civilization. Its a very Protestant civilization. Even Puritan/Evangelical at its foundation and most of the structure.
      Its a beautiful idea to separate religion and government but not separate God as a source for society and so prayer is fine and good for government. Its just that and not about decisions.
      In fact teaching evolution is an attack of the state upon religion as long as it censors a rebuttal on a principal of neutrality.
      Both or nether is logics demand.

    3. Re Booby Byers

      In fact teaching evolution is an attack of the state upon religion as long as it censors a rebuttal on a principal of neutrality.
      Both or nether is logics demand.

      Let's see, teaching that the Earth goes around the Sun is an attack of the state on religion unless the alternative of the Sun going around the Earth is also taught. Teaching that diseases are caused by microbes is an attack by the state on religion unless the alternative of disease being caused by demons is also taught. We could go on and on with this nonsense.

  8. Which god are they praying to...? Representing the mayor or the majority of Mississauga...? I'm just curios......