Labor’s Senate leaders confirm 121 year tradition of reading the Lord’s Prayer at start of each sitting day will not be scrapped

Labor’s Senate leaders have confirmed the 121-year tradition of reading the Lord’s Prayer at the start of each sitting day in parliament will continue despite calls from the Upper House’s new President Sue Lines.

Senator Lines was criticised on Thursday after she called for the formality to be removed because, as an atheist, she did not want to say the prayer.

However, Labor’s leader in the Senate Penny Wong and deputy Senate leader Don Farrell confirmed there would be no change to the tradition.

“Senators Wong and Farrell share the view that the prayer should continue to be read at the commencement of each sitting day,” the pair said in a statement, The Australian reported.

“Decisions about standing orders are for the Senate as a whole.

“Any changes should aim to unite senators rather than divide, as was demonstrated yesterday when the Senate agreed unanimously to display the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags.”

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Manager of government business in the Senate, Katy Gallagher also said there was a “clear view” the Lord’s Prayer would not be removed.

“I don’t mind the prayer. I’m not a religious person but it is very much part of the Senate tradition,” Senator Gallagher told The Australian.

“My view is how you run the chamber relies on a collegiate discussion across the chamber and there’s a clear view that the Lord’s Prayer is to stay.”

Senator Lines sparked outcry when she said it was time for the reading of the Lord’s Prayer to be scrapped with the 47th Parliament including more diversity than ever before.

“On the one hand we’ve had almost every parliamentary leader applaud the diversity of the Parliament and so if we are genuine about the diversity of the Parliament we cannot continue to say a Christian prayer to open the day,” Senator Lines told The Australian.

“Personally, I would like to see the prayers gone. I’m an atheist. I don’t want to say the prayers. If others want to say the prayers they’re open to do that.

“Personally I would like to see them gone but again it’s not something I can decree. It’s a view of the Senate.”

Simon Birmingham, leader of the Opposition in the Senate, said the current proceedings in the Chamber are “respectful and reflective” and should not be changed.

“It has evolved with the appropriate addition of the acknowledgment of country and now provides for a respectful and reflective start of proceedings,” Senator Birmingham said, according to The Australian.

“Even those of us who are not of faith can benefit from the ­period of reflection these commencement traditions allow for and should respect rather than unwind them.”

Kennedy MP Bob Katter also responded to Senator Lines’ call to get rid of the Lord’s Prayer.

“Is it an unreasonable thing to quote from a book that more than half the population is committed to?  In Australia it is,” he said.

“And now, we have been told today by some that we cannot say prayers in the Parliament. We can show allegiance to some lady in England, but we cannot say prayers.”

Members of Parliament and Senators are not required to be present for the reading of the prayer or participate in the reading.

Former Greens leader Bob Brown previously tried to remove the Lord’s Prayer from the Senate proceedings in 1997 when he called for it to be replaced by a period of reflection.

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