Daily Archives: August 14, 2011

Human Rights, Prayers et al

“I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.”  ~Gandhi

I read this post from Fribnit’s World the other day and lo and behold the next day in our local newspaper was an item whose headline read “Prayer row heads to tribunal”

Map of New Zealand


This is all about a row that has erupted in Wanganui  in the Manawatu region of New Zealand.  Wanganui is approximately 122 miles north of Wellington on the map. Apparently in April, the Mayor suggested that reference to God should be removed from the prayer that opens each meeting as a way of respecting all the faiths in the community.

We are told “The informal remark sparked a furore about whether praying was an appropriate item of business on the council agenda”*  And now a complaint has been made to the Human Rights Commission** which stepped in to mediate.  One Councillor has admitted that he laid the complaint and that he has now asked the Office of Human Rights Proceedings (an independent director attached to the Commission) to consider taking his case to the Tribunal as no solution was found during mediation.

We are also told that most councils open their meetings with a prayer and this is just a continuance of the way things have always been done.  What do you think about this?

  • Should this practice of opening with a prayer continue
  • If it continues should the reference to God be removed to take into account the various faiths represented in the community
  • Should this matter go as far as the Human Rights Tribunal **
  • Does there need to be more open discussion on this matter

Each sitting of the country’s parliament is opened with a prayer.  If this case does go to the Tribunal the reverberations could reach parliament and then what will the decision be?

On August 5 2011 the National Secular Society in the United Kingdom reported on a decision handed down recently in the United States.  “A federal appellate court has struck down a North Carolina county’s policy of opening board meetings with sectarian prayers. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled 2:1 that the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners’ preference for Christian prayers violates the constitutional separation of church and state.”

I am quite sure that we haven’t heard the last of this and that the discussions on the matter will go on for many months.

Notes – *   Reported in the Dompost August 13 2011
** “The Human Rights Act sets out the primary functions of the
Human  Rights Commission. These are to advocate and promote respect for and appreciation of human rights in New Zealand society; and to encourage the maintenance and development of harmonious relations between individuals and the diverse groups in New Zealand society.”