A proposal to scrap the reading of the Lord’s Prayer in the legislature has prompted 5,700 submissions from the public – temporarily crashing the legislature’s website – and hundreds of phone calls from many who want to preserve the Christian tradition.
While Premier Dalton McGuinty says it’s time to open the province’s legislative debate with a more inclusive prayer, politicians tasked with sifting through the varied opinions say the majority don’t want to see Ontario fall in line with other provinces by replacing the Lord’s Prayer.
Speaker Steve Peters, who is chairing the committee to examine replacing the prayer with another reading, said the response through the legislature’s website has been overwhelming.
The traffic was so great when the committee first set up the online form that it temporarily crashed the website, resulting in hundreds of calls to Mr. Peters’ office. More than half the Conservative caucus have presented petitions in the house on the topic and the committee has yet to hear from about 50 different faith groups.
Those handpicked organizations, from The Assembly of First Nations to atheists to Christian denominations, have until the end of the month to make their case.
“The committee is going to have a lot of information to review,” Mr. Peters said.
But other committee members say the message from the submissions so far is pretty clear – keep the Lord’s Prayer.
Conservative Garfield Dunlop said some don’t mind alternating the Lord’s Prayer with other readings but the vast majority don’t want to see it scrapped altogether.
“The Lord’s Prayer is inclusive enough that it covers a lot of different religions,” said Mr. Dunlop, adding the reading is part of Ontario’s history. “You have to take that into account. It’s not just about religion. It’s about tradition.”
The last time the legislature debated replacing the Lord’s Prayer, in 2001, Mr. Dunlop said there was a similar outcry. The debate sparked by the Conservative proposal to fund all religious schools in the last election is further proof, Mr. Dunlop said.
“You don’t tamper too much with what you’ve got,” he said. “This really irks a lot of people and gets under their skin.”
People weren’t clamouring to talk again about the Lord’s Prayer’s place in the legislature before Premier McGuinty raised the issue in February, but New Democrat Cheri DiNovo says they are now.
“About 80 per cent of them are in favour of keeping the Lord’s Prayer. Now he’s getting his groundswell,” said the United Church minister. “The background of all of this is a province with one-in-eight children living in poverty. We could be spending all this money and all this time addressing that.”
The last time the Ontario legislature updated its daily prayer was in 1969, when it changed the preamble to the Lord’s Prayer. It is one of the few remaining provinces – along with Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick – still reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
Both the House of Commons and the Senate recite non-denominational prayers.
(Moderator’s Note: You can make your opinion known to the Ontatio Legislative Assembly here.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Matt Achine, after A May 5, 2008 article by Chinta Puxley over The Canadian Press