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Friday, May 09, 2008

Reciting the Lord's Prayer in Ontario's Legislature

Premier Dalton McGuinty started the debate in February when he called for a study of the current practice [Lord's Prayer review ordered].
Queen's Park Bureau Chief
In a bid to separate church and state – or, in this case, province – Premier Dalton McGuinty wants to end the practice of reciting the Lord's Prayer in the Ontario Legislature.

McGuinty surprised observers at Queen's Park this morning by appealing for an all-party committee to replace the prayer.

"I believe it is time for Ontario's Legislature to better reflect Ontario's reality and celebrate our diversity," the premier wrote to the leaders of the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats.

"It is time to move beyond the daily recitation of the Lord's Prayer in the Ontario Legislature to a more inclusive approach that reflects 21st century Ontario," he said, noting the prayer was last updated in 1969.

"Our counterparts in other provinces and the federal government have adjusted their customs to reflect the diversity of the population.

"The members of the Ontario Legislature reflect the diversity of Ontario – be it Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or agnostic. It is time for our practices to do the same. That is the Ontario way," McGuinty wrote.
This sounds pretty enlightened. Later on we learned that McGuinty had in mind multiple prayers and not just abolishing the practice altogether.

The committee has been struck. One of the first things they did was to set up a website. Within days the website crashed from the volume of submissions [Proposal to scrap Lord's Prayer crashes gov't website]. Can you guess who was responding? Yes, that's right, thousands of people who want to keep the Lord's Prayer in the legislature. It doesn't matter to them if we have Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and atheist MPP's. No sireee. They all have to say the Lord's Prayer before doing any business in the house. That's only fair.

Naturally, it's the Conservatives who are leading the charge to stifle tolerance and promote bigotry. The latest example is a column from one of the editors of The National Post [John Turley-Ewart: Ontario shouldn't ditch the Lord's Prayer]. You won't believe the silliness of his argument ...
Christians across the province see the Premier's move as a sop to those who think saying the prayer is inconsistent with multiculturalism. Those who disapprove of such a move include Premier McGuinty's own mother. But that has not caused the Premier to waver in his position for change. He is on record saying: "We've got a responsibility to ensure that all people feel truly at home here."

But the move has left many Christians in Ontario wondering if the province is still their home; if it is a place that is in tune with the Christian principles that have informed the province's political and economic values — values that underpin Ontario's success story as a democratic, prosperous province. The Lord's Prayer, recited by Catholics and Protestants alike, is more than words that pay homage to God.

It represents a piece of common ground that Catholics and Protestants could agree on -- a daily ritual that helped in whatever small way to break down the intolerance that existed between the majority Protestants and minority Catholics who founded the province.

In its own small but important way, the recital of the Lord's Prayer is a symbol of the tolerance that has made Ontario the great place it is today to live. That Premier McGuinty would consider dropping the prayer in the name of tolerance is, thus, ironic. It would do a disservice to the province's history and its Christian heritage.

Ontario should keep the Lord's Prayer, add other prayers from different faiths if thought appropriate, and avoid the folly of dismissing history for feel good, fuzzy visions of multiculturalism.
Hmmm ... let's see if I understand this correctly. Forcing atheists to recite, or listen to, the Christian prayer every day, is a symbol of "tolerance."

Earth to John Turley-Ewart ... you are promoting bigotry and intolerance. If you want your Christian friends to say the Lord's Prayer then let them say it by themselves in the privacy of their offices before going to the House to do Ontario's business.

Just because a majority of MPP's may be Christians is no reason for the majority to force their religion on everyone else. That's not the Canadian way.


  1. There was a panel discussion about this in the Globe and Mail. Link

    Overall, it was pretty infuriating except for Justin Trottier's piece.

  2. Hey, Post-Diluvian Diaspora. I read over the G&M discussion and found it quite heartening. With the exception of the Evangelical and Catholic participants, the other panelists, particularly the Rabbi, seemed to be of the opinion that religion should be a personal matter (or no-religion for that matter) and that the best way to protect our liberties and freedoms is to have a completely secular society. Most of the reader comments were also in agreement with this.

    I guess the only scary part was when the Evangelical panelist asked why, via the removal of the lord's prayer, our 'atheistic rights' triumphed over her rights to worship as a Christian...

  3. Matthew 6:5-6 (introducing the Lord's Prayer):

    "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

    But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

    The legislature is a pretty big closet.

  4. But the move has left many Christians in Ontario wondering if the province is still their home; if it is a place that is in tune with the Christian principles that have informed the province's political and economic values

    Clearly, the only way to decide whether Ontario is still in tune with Christian principles is to ask whether a prayer is mumbled before government sessions. Actually examining the political and economic decisions that the legislature makes seems too hard for these people.

    It's this sort of unthinking expression of dogmatic devotion to the letter of their faith rather than even the barest consideration of deeper issues serves as yet another example of why Christians are held in such low regard.

    Now if we can just follow Ontario's lead at the federal level and in the rest of the country...

  5. carlo, yeah you're right. I forgot about the rabbi. He was okay. It was Lorna Dueck that really bothered me

  6. I for one would not like them to take out the Lord's Prayer anywhere in this country. Christianity is what this country is founded on. I also would like to see the Lord's Prayer and the Golden Rule put back into our schools. You take it out an He, God Almighty will turn his back on this wonderful nation. Let the new immigrants get used to this fact. If you were in their country you would have to put up with their ways! Do not be foolish!

  7. Thank you, Carolyn, for openly demonstrating the majority bigotry that was mentioned above. Had you taken half a second to look at your false dichotomy between immigrant and christian, or the Matthew 6:5-6 passage above, you'd realize how unchristian it is to recite the Lord's prayer at the beginning of the public forum.