Bahai News - N.S. New Democrat pushing for daily prayer to be silenced in legislature
February 11, 2001
N.S. New Democrat pushing for daily prayer to be silenced in
HALIFAX (CP) -- A Nova Scotia New Democrat says prayers -- Christian or
otherwise -- do not belong in provincial legislatures.
"If people want to pray, let them pray either in private or in their houses
of worship," said Howard Epstein, MLA for Halifax-Chebucto.
In Nova Scotia, the Lord's Prayer is recited by members of the legislature
each day the house is in session, before the doors are opened in the public
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I and Ontario are the only provinces that
still adhere to the practice.
Epstein, who is Jewish, said he feels excluded by the Christian prayer and
boycotts the daily ritual. But he said his main objection is to the concept
of politicians praying.
"The public may feel anything that would help politicians would be
worthwhile," said Epstein.
"(But) it's inappropriate. I do tend to believe in a separation of church
Mark Parent, a Conservative government backbencher, who is also a Baptist
He said there is still a place in the legislature's proceedings to ask for
guidance from above. Parent, who represents the Kings-North riding, said
parliamentarians, through prayer, are acknowledging there is "something
deeper, greater and more powerful."
He said the tradition should continue to remind politicians there is a
greater justice at work.
A court case is currently underway in Ontario where a Holocaust survivor is
trying to get the provincial legislature to drop the recitation of the
Henry Freitag argues the ritual is a form of religious indoctrination that
violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In 1999, he won a legal victory that effectively ended the recitation of
the Lord's Prayer at municipal council meetings in Ontario. Many councils
now substitute a minute of silence.
While Parent is opposed to doing away with prayers altogether in the Nova
Scotia legislature, he said it's time to review the ritual.
"We should have more inclusive prayers, or prayers from different
traditions," said Parent.
At the recent Conservative Party convention, Parent led a non-denominational
prayer service, which closed with a Baha'i prayer.
"There are some wonderful Mi'kmaq prayers," said Parent, who added that
Canada's changing demographics will eventually force a change.
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