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Council will no longer recite prayer at public meetings

Prince Edward County Mayor Robert Quaiff stated today that effective immediately, the County will no longer engage in the practice of reciting a prayer at the beginning of meetings of council.

This change of practice is the result of today’s ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada. dealing specifically with the practice of Saguenay City Hall’s municipal council. to open its public meetings with a prayer. The court found that it infringed on the fundamental rights of non-believers.

The ruling concluded that including a prayer at public meetings creates an environment of exclusion for those who do not share associated beliefs.

“The ruling also enforced the duty of municipalities to uphold the freedoms of religion and belief that are protected for all Canadians through the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Quaiff. “The County aims to foster an environment of acceptance and equality. This ruling will result in an update of the County’s Procedure Bylaw.”

To view the Supreme Court ruling, visit: http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/15288/index.do
To view the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, visit: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/const/page-15.html

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  1. Wolf Braun says:

    That councilors are “asking the Lord to watch over what we’re doing and to guide us … to look for spiritual guidance,” is ludicrous. Voters elect their councilors on the assumption that they already possess the “wisdom, knowledge, judgement and understanding,” to make the right decisions for the city. They shouldn’t have to ask for those attributes before every meeting, as if getting a booster shot.

    I’d rather see the Mayor and Council reminds themselves openly before each meeting why they are there (PURPOSE) and the agreed upon PRINCIPLES they will adhere to when making tough decisions on our behalf.

    I hope I have it right that voters evaluate candidates for “wisdom, knowledge, judgement and understanding” before casting their ballot.

  2. Bob says:

    Actually, I do not think it is immigrants who are offended by our traditions. I have never heard a Hindu or Muslim complaining about Christmas songs, in fact I know many who LOVE this holiday and get right into it. When I was in Buddhist SE Asia one Christmas, Santa Claus and Christmas decorations greeted you at the airport, and Christmas songs are all over the place, I think it is a perverse notion of political correctness coming from some misguided overly sensitive liberal minded people that came up with some of this stuff.

    The issue of Prayers in a government setting is different. I feel imposed on with it. Also, the word “recite” (the Lord’s Prayer) says a lot – and that is how people say the Lord’s Prayer…like robots. Since I was a kid, people say it with pauses in exactly the same places, the same inflexions in voice. There is nothing spontaneous about it and nothing that refers to giving guidance to the politicians in making their decisions. A moment of reflection would be nice to see however, or wise words from the Mayor encouraging discernment or something.

  3. Mark says:

    I have to agree with Chuck on the fact that Shire Hall needs to move into the current times. We have lost all good staff from Human Resources, Planning, Public works, either from dirty deals or lack of any professionalism. Administration is way, way behind neighboring municipalities. It is not only tiring it is just plain wrong what has been going on. All former workers giving the same story cannot be wrong.

  4. Chuck says:

    I think Mohammed is pleased!

  5. lou says:

    If its to separate Religion from Government (jobs) its one thing.
    but the court said

    The court found that it infringed on the fundamental rights of non-believers. (other religions)

    Depends on how you see it
    Is it separating religion from government. not according to the article.

    or is to please non Christian

    and yes Toronto and bigger cities does have ALOT more non christiain then years ago.

    2). the school was not allowed to Sing Religion Christmas songs.
    they could sing Jingle bells. but NOT oh holy night
    as it may offend any Non Christians
    maybe not all schools?
    The board has instructed schools not to do it.
    A lot of schools in the cities have a huge “other religion”. so they stopped it.

    anyhow. Onwards, as long as we don’t have to change our traditions because of new immigrants.

  6. Chuck says:

    Council could do well to look at the commisioner’s running of Shire Hall. It has been a cess pool and poisoned work environment for ages. Very good employee’s forced out to maintain a stagnant and non productive or progressive workplace! But if the focus is removing prayer, paying out CAO’s and the decade old size of Council then no true change will ocurr.

  7. Susan says:

    I have seen and read a lot of community forums. For the great most part this one is conducted appropriately. Disagreements and solid debate but little name calling or otherwise. I think it has been well monitored and is positive for community issue debate. And I know most Councilors read the dialogue. What they do with it is a matter for another thread.

  8. Bob says:

    Thanks Marnie for the dialogue. We are probably closer in our views than what is obvious. I really do enjoy debates like this and thanks for participating.

  9. Gary says:

    Rose seems to enjoy the commentary and flaming to shut it down! Not sure about his motives. Do you want to shutdown a community forum that you actively participate in?

  10. Marnie says:

    The Lord helps those who help themselves Paul. God can only do so much.

  11. Paul says:

    So Prince Edward County Council prayed before every meeting up until now and look at the mess we’re in 😉

  12. Marnie says:

    To bad you view an exchange of opinions as pointless rhetoric Mark. Why do you read the comments section if it annoys you so much? Do you do it so that you, too, can have something about which to complain?

  13. Lindsay says:

    Susan, don’t even get me started on the Catholic school system!

  14. Mark Rose says:

    Exactly what Lindsay said.

    And lou, I went to a school Christmas concert last year. I assure you there were Christmas songs sung.

  15. Susan says:

    Lindsay, I assume you take great issue with the governments support of the Catholic school system.

  16. Lindsay says:

    This isn’t a law in favour of atheists, or anyone for that matter. It’s simply removing religion from where it has no place. There is nothing stopping anyone from praying to their chosen deity or meditating before coming to a council meeting.

    I was actually shocked to learn there was still prayer in council! I find it highly inappropriate. I have absolutely no issue with anyone’s faith on their own time, but I have a huge problem with religion (Christian or otherwise) being included in the political process.

  17. lou says:

    court says … creates an environment of exclusion for those who do not share associated beliefs.

    I hear sometimes, that it doesn’t make sense to mix religion with a government duty, job etc. these are separate (more excuse to get rid of because they are not Christian) but anyhow.

    my concerns are. Where could it stop? is this it?

    we are not allowed to sing xmas songs in schools, nor do three king plays etc

    will Christmas trees in malls be taken down. because its NOT fair on …other religions that don’t celebrate
    ( I did see on the news a group trying to protest)
    and other Christmas things be restricted?
    maybe sounds far fetched but…who knows.

    I know if I moved to another country ..example China
    I shouldn’t move there, and then ask them to take down their Budha statues because I don’t believe.

    just my opinions

  18. Mark Rose says:

    Its so much funny watching these boards. The Intelligencer just closed their commenting section and I suggest CountyLive do the same.

    Then you all can complain like you used to… writing to the Gazette.

  19. Debbie says:

    Whats next??? I live in Canada and it sickens me that our rights and beliefs are always thrown on the back burner for fear of offending someone.
    It makes me wonder that if we were to go to a council meeting and proceeded to say the Lord’s prayer would we be thrown out or would the police be called? Hmmmm, interesting.

  20. Marnie says:

    I respect what you’ve just said Bob. I think the idea of a minute of quiet contemplation before council meetings is a good one. Church attendance is declining and no one can argue that but I think there are still a lot of people out there who believe in their own way, myself included. We must never lose the right to believe and should never be made to feel defensive about saying the word ‘God’. The world is a scary place today. There is little respect for anything in today’s world. It’s sad and now more than ever we need to believe in something right and good.

  21. Bob says:

    You are right on Marnie about the principles of Christianity being principles of good government. I wish we would see more in government of these qualities. Jesus was all about social justice and helping the poor and equality. But the principles of all religions are similar. Extremists in Islam (and any religion including Christianity) are exceptions who use religion to justify atrocities. But most atheists and non-believers that I know are compassionate and caring souls. I believe we have 1,000,000 Muslims in Canada. That is one stat. Church attendance is declining. I see nothing wrong with a moment of reflexion before any meeting so any one can ask for guidance in whatever way suits him or her. They can pray if they like. I am a WASP born Canadian, raised Christian, but a non-believer but not an atheist, more agnostic. I find it an imposition on my ethics to have a denominational prayer recited and to be expected to participate, as if it is assumed I believe this. I do not pretend to be praying but do lower my head down to not be conspicuous. You are a compassionate person yourself, honest…and all this law does is allow others to be themselves. I do believe that if we all respected each other in this way, compassion would follow from all sides.

  22. Marnie says:

    Bob, there is a saying that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. You seem to believe that the majority of the county’s population is composed of non-believers. To do a Wolfe Braun, what statistics do you have to support this? The principles of Christianity are not that far from the principles we should expect from good government – honesty, fairness, compassion – so why should a simple prayer at the beginning of a meeting be so disturbing? By the new “godless” approach we open the door a little wider for the radicals of whom you speak. If we profess no faith we are easy prey. And by the way how many Hindus and Buddhists do you think we have in the county today? Already we are not supposed to say Merry Christmas. Now a prayer before a council meeting has been outlawed. Where does it end? When do we wake up and realize that it is OUR rights that are being sacrificed for a whining minority that would not offer any compromises to us at all if we found ourselves living in their countries.

  23. Bob says:

    Well Marnie..Christians should only realize that most people out there are not Christian believers and they should stop trying to force their way on to the majority…in fact most people born ‘Christian’ do not have a religion at all. Again, this is about a GOVERNMENT process…and that should be secular. Maybe Christian believers need to apologize for not getting it that THEY are the minority, not only in PEC but all over the world. Christians are the only religion that believe they mist convert others for salvation…exception, the crazy Islamists who are a modern reaction to Christian imperialism.

  24. Gary says:

    It’s a great country until all beliefs and traditions are removed in order to not offend the new immigrants. Yes I said new immigrants be it black, white, brown, yellow or whatever. Many of the new immigrants are welcomed graciously and provided monetary support by the long time citizens until they can stand on their own. Does getting in return the right to say Merry Christmas rather than Happy Holidays too much to ask?

  25. john says:

    I agree with Susan the National Anthem should be next. There is no mention of Canada in the bible or that the lord will keep our countries free. These words were put into the Anthem in the 80s and therefore no one should have any trouble removing them. Weather you believe in the bible or not it’s fairly obvious that God is not going to keep it free, the citizens will keep it free. Change it to we from god. While we are at it get rid of “sons” as well. Nothing is sacred, everything is up for debate, it’s a truly great country.

  26. Marnie says:

    Bob, it seems we are apologizing all the time and by ‘we’ I mean Christians. We fall all over ourselves never to offend. We are a sorry lot pun intended and it’s time we stopped kow-towing to minorities who are quick to take offence where none is intended. From the stories we hear out of council these days a little divine intervention could not hurt. They need all the help they can get.

  27. Paul says:

    The one word answer Susan Quebec…Protestant Schools are considered separate schools there and this is an excellent example of why church and state needs to be separate. Tax payers end up paying for two or more systems by catering to different religions…

  28. Susan says:

    Hmmm. Why does government support a Catholic school system then?

  29. Ian says:

    I feel compelled to point out to the posters who raise the issue of the separation of church and state, that they need to rely upon another premise.

    There is no such thing as the separation of church and state in Canada. It is an American constitutional concept.

    One example: the Queen is Canada’s head of state and also head of the Church of England (Anglican).

  30. Jack Dall says:

    A very positive change. Church and state should not mix. A personal non verbal reflection before each meeting could be in order if so desired by any one individual. Most certainly not a group participation.

  31. Bob says:

    we are talking about a GOVERNMENT meeting, not the Rotary, a hockey game, a rally. Government is supposed to be free of religion, period. No one should have to step out of a room (and further insult the others) or not say certain lines, or say certain lines. And, Marnie, no one need apologize for their beliefs and that includes Christians, Hindus, Pagans or atheists. That is why we want to keep it all neutral when it comes to government.

  32. Susan says:

    I suppose the National Anthem will be the next to be censored as it says “God keep our land glorious and free”. Will that not offend non believers?

  33. Marnie says:

    I recall that the Catholic students attending high school did not repeat the last line of the Lord’s Prayer when it was recited at the start of the school day. The Protestants were not offended and thought no less of their Catholic classmates. The Catholics were not upset that the Protestants recited an additional line. Why don’t the non-believers,Hindus,Muslims just step into another room when the Christian majority prays? They seem all too eager to take offence and sadly we are all to willing to apologize for our Christian beliefs. Wasn’t there a dude in the Bible who denied Christ out of fear several times before the rooster crowed?

  34. Mark Rose says:

    Its funny that this is a thing in 2015. Weird, people are smarter now!

  35. Bob says:

    R.Richman, I haven’t seen any other spiritual rituals performed at council meetings – pagan or other denominations.

  36. Bob says:

    As a non-believer, must I stand there while everyone prays and must I pretend to be praying? is being a non-believer a lack of respect? for whom or what? hat about recognize the many other religions that make up our country and county – Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhasts, non-believers?

    There could be a moment of silence before every such meeting in which all participants are invited to meditate/pray/think – or whatever you want to call it – for ability to make the best decisions possible.

    And for Christians, why the Lord’s Prayer? Why not some meditation on some wise sayings of Christ that could help politicians?

  37. R.Richman says:

    It is not only atheists. It is groups that do not believe in God but believe in another supreme being. But these same people have the right to perform their rituals in front of christians and it is alright, this is what gets may goat.Where is the supreme court then.

  38. Marnie says:

    We are well on our way to a society that holds respect for nothing. Remember when they ‘got away’ with saying the Lord’s prayer and singing God Save the Queen at the start of every school day Bob? It appears that the time is not too far off when those who pray well may want to do it in secret or risk censure. After all we cannot offend those non-believers.

  39. Bob says:

    Never heard of separating church and state? a founding principles of our democracy? I’m surprised they got away with it this long.

    Individual Council members can pray for their own guidance before a meeting if they wish. It just should not be a part of the official agenda.

  40. Gary says:

    Stand up Quaiff! You are off to one horrific start! So the people’s belief that founded this Country and County are not any longer respected or recognized.

  41. Marnie says:

    Score one for the atheists. What about the religious rights of those who do believe? Isn’t there a saying to the effect that the law is an ass? This proves it.

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