This week the House of Commons debated a motion by the Bloc Québécois regarding the House’s morning prayer. Yes, the morning prayer no less. As a number of MPs pointed out, the House has somewhat more important issues to deal with. Furthermore, the Bloc might have waited until June when time is set aside to debate standing orders.

Still, the motion deserves a word or two. If passed, it would have ended the 145-year tradition of the Speaker of the House reading the prayer every morning before proceedings begin, and replaced it with a moment of reflection. The Bloc’s justification was “separation of religion and the state” and “a desire for inclusiveness.”

This seems eminently reasonable and in keeping with fundamental Canadian principles. Indeed, I was a little surprised that our modern House of Commons was still calling on “Almighty God” as the current prayer does. Indeed, those are its first two words. It then goes on to pray for our sovereign, guide the parliamentarians in their deliberations, grant them wisdom, blah, blah, blah. Reading of the daily prayer was proposed by John A. Macdonald who justified his motion by saying, “All Canadians are Christians.”

The religious aspect of the prayer may offend the Bloc, but one suspects they aren’t too keen on praying for the Queen either. They make a point of not entering the House until after the national anthem has been sung.

I agree with them on both counts, not so much about the Queen but about the religious thing. Our anthem also appeals to God, specifically to “keep our land glorious and free.”

As an atheist I have a little trouble appealing to a mythical entity to keep our land glorious and free. I’m inclined to think that’s rather more up to us. In any case, neither the prayer nor the anthem are inclusive in the Canadian fashion when they essentially exclude the millions of us who are atheists or agnostics. I would strongly support bumping God from both.

The parliamentarians apparently did not agree. At least not at this time. The Bloc’s motion was defeated 266 to 56 with Bloc, Green and most NDP MPs voting aye. All Conservatives voted nay or abstained, as did all Liberals but one. 

Maybe in June.

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