Mark Sainsbury: Modernising Parliament's prayer is a good thing

Mark Sainsbury: Modernising Parliament's prayer is a good thing

OPINION: “Almighty God, we humbly acknowledge our need for thy guidance in all things. And laying aside all private and persona interests, we beseech thee to grant that we may conduct the affairs of this house and of our country to the glory of your name, the maintenance of true religion and justice, the honour of the Queen, and the public welfare peace and tranquillity of New Zealand, thorough Jesus Christ our lord amen.”

So begins, or so used to begin, the New Zealand parliament each day with the speaker intoning a message from the sponsor. 

Now quite apart from having doubts as to whether they will, in fact, lay aside all private and personal interests. 

I have long had an issue with the religious bity. We are supposed to be a secular country. Not everyone is Christian, just as not everyone is Jewish or a Muslim or an atheist. l don’t care what view you have you are entitled to your beliefs to your customs to your practices  as long as they don’t breech the laws and modes of acceptable behaviour we hold as a nation.  

You see our national is separate from religious belief, which is why I have long  held the view the prayer at the start of Parliament is totally inappropriate. Certainly for these times.    

And it seems now speaker Trevor Mallard agrees. He promised to consult over the prayer, but has already started using a new Te Reo version that drops all references to the Queen and to Jesus Christ. Well done Trevor. It seems he wanted to go further and remove all religious references, but many of our MPs resisted.  Why?   Do they not get it?  Do they still think we are living in some sort of 1950’s New Zealand were everyone is white and Christian.

And I’m not dumping on the Christians, I would feel the same if had a prayer of any sort at the start. 

I remember we used to have a prayer at school, and of course we used to have to stand at the start of movies for the playing of the national anthem, God Save the Queen. That’s long gone and should the rest go as well? My question is this stuff appropriate in a  modern civilised society.

Mark Sainsbury is RadioLIVE's Morning Talk host.