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In the News

Call to ban the Lord's prayer in Victorian Parliament

   Wednesday, 18 March 2015

A row has erupted between a Liberal conservative and Greens MPs about the role of the Lord's Prayer in Victorian Parliament.

The debate kicked off last week after Liberal MP Tim Smith rebuked the two new lower house Greens MPs for their practice of entering the chamber after the prayer has been recited.

Next week, the Greens will seek in Parliament to replace the Lord's Prayer with a version that reflects Victoria's "secular and multicultural society".

The Greens member for Melbourne, Ellen Sandell, described the prayer as an "anachronism" that applied only to those of Christian faith.

"We seek an alternative that brings us into line with other Parliaments around the world," she said. "The ACT has replaced prayer with silent reflection and even US Congress rotates between prayers from different faiths."

In Parliament, Mr Smith accused Ms Sandell and fellow Greens MP Sam Hibbins of a "conceited pattern of behaviour".

"This exhibits a total lack of respect and almost contempt for the ancient traditions of this house," he said.

Mr Smith said he wanted a ruling on their conduct and urged them to take their "undergraduate protest politics somewhere else".

The Victorian Parliament is home to many MPs with religious backgrounds.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Deputy Premier James Merlino are both Catholics.

Other MPs, including upper house crossbencher Rachel Carling-Jenkins and Opposition MP Bernie Finn, have cited their strong Christian beliefs when pushing for changes to abortion laws.

Former Frankston MP Geoff Shaw was also a well-known advocate of his Christian faith in Parliament.

The Greens motion will seek to have the matter referred to a committee for consideration, but will need a majority of MPs to support it.

Ms Sandell said she was open to an alternative to the Lord's Prayer, including rotating the prayers of different faiths, including Islam and Judaism.

"It's just a matter of making sure Parliament is representing Victorian society and not just those of Christian faith."

Labor MP Jane Garrett said it was "arrogant and dismissive" for the Greens to "boycott" the Lord's Prayer. "It's transparent grandstanding," she said.

But Ms Garrett said she was willing to have a discussion about incorporating other faiths or a secular element into the tradition.

Leader of the House Jacinta Allan said the government had no plans to change the standing orders but "ultimately it is a matter for the Parliament."

Labor MP Vicki Ward said it was important to respect the authority of the speaker, which is acknowledged at the start of every sitting morning before the prayer.

"While I recognise that the Greens do not wish to be witness to the prayer, I'm not sure why they would not be in the [Legislative] Assembly for when the mace is laid and the Speaker first takes the chair," she said.

Benjamin Preiss

State Political Reporter for The Age