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.”

17 responses to “Human Rights, Prayers et al

  1. In the USA this matter is quite controversial as well. The position of complete separation of church and state enhances true democracy in every way in my opinion. Religion does not belong in secular matters. Our Lord Jesus never went before the Roman Senate or the Jewish Sanhedrin to get laws and ordinances passed. Faith is of a different realm and must not be contaminated in the state houses of men.


    • When the British and French came to this land they brought with them Christianity and for many years NZ was deemed to be a Christian country. But that has now changed and we have many people of different faiths here.. I agree that Religion does not belong in secular matters. As for schools, if you wish your children to be taught religion in school then you can choose to send them to a particular school. I guess it’s the same where you live.


      • We chose to send our daughter to a Christian school, for which we had to pay tuition; yet we still had to pay taxes for the public school system. There has been an attempt at legislation for vouchers, not yet successful.


  2. Yes Patti we did the same for our two children. They went to Presbyterian schools but we still had to pay taxes for the public school system. I guess it is the same the world over except when we lived in the UK (many years ago) there was some tax deduction for school fees I think but we left there when our children were 7 and 4 so didn’t get much benefit from that.
    Thanks for th comment. 🙂


  3. Thought provoking… thanks again for your views…

    I still feel as the new western democracies were founded on European principles (rightly or wrongly) there should or could be some form of a link with the past…

    Countries, where other faiths form the foundation of the culture, seem to suggest that if you live there you follow their norm… so, if you live in a western society why not live by those western norms? Past and present…


    • But this whole matter of state and church is so woven into itself and there are so many differing views. My view is that these two things be kept separate but it doesn’t appear to be possible.
      We have many comments here about having to follow the ‘norm’ in our countries and so why not here? That’s another ongoing topic that seems to have no resolution.
      Thanks for the comment.


  4. It seems an endless never ending struggle/argument. I enjoyed the religion in our school a long long time ago but this is a new day and our world includes people of all beliefs and non beliefs and each is accorded respect or should be.


    • Yes of course, we had religious education when I went to school but apart from the Jews who had their own assembly each day during the saying of prayers, the rest of the school was Christian. This is not the case today either here or where I was brought up in the UK.
      We have opened our doors to these people, we try to make them feel welcome, and therefore we have to respect their religious views too.
      Thanks for the comment Chris.


      • this is exactly why prayer shouldnot be in public school. The Jewish students are essentially forced to identify as different by having a seperate assembly.


  5. A while back I posted a photograph of a thank you note my 8 year old grandson had written me. One blogging friend acknowledged how nice it was to receive an authentic note, rather than one of these things the teachers send home from school where the note is written and all the children do is fill in blanks and then ta-tah a signature. I’m thinking about that now. How the government sends us a prepared message/prayer and we “get to fill in the blanks.” I’m not overly religious but definitely a woman of faith. I have utmost respect for the cultures and shoulders we stand on…our roots if you will… and prefer authentic expression from the heart and experience. From our “Declaration of Independence” “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Now how do we thank that Creator? Interesting post.


    • Thanks for visiting. I have been over to your blog and enjoyed reading several if your posts,
      I know what you mean about the letters the children ‘write’ from school.
      This secular and church problem has waged for many years and will no doubt continue to do so.
      athere is no ready or easy answer, we just have to work towards a solution that hopefully will meet everybody’s expectations or at least satisfaction.


  6. The world has always contained differing faiths. Still, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Christianity – for better or worse – has had the loudest squeak in most countries.

    These arguments, which no know land boundaries, frustrate me. As long as we have the freedom to think and express our opinions, differing opinions will continue. I am thankful for my freedom, so I accept the fact that people will use their freedom to disagree. I just wish we’d stop being separated by our disagreements.


    • I know that we are fortunate to have the right to express our own beliefs and opinions, when so many in the world do not have this right/freedom. Christianity has been the ruling religion here for over 150 years and it is not ready to take a back seat (or at least it’s protagonists aren’t).


  7. Pingback: Are Human Rights alright? Part 4 « creatingreciprocity

  8. I went to Catholic Schools but sent mine to secular schools that honored the various religious holidays… It is a touchy issue as we learn to share space with people of other faiths.


    • Because we have so many differing faiths here now there is comment about which holidays should be recognized. Easter particularly is coming under threat with calls for it to be given another name in recognition of the other faiths.


  9. Pingback: Are Human Rights alright? Part 4 - creatingreciprocity

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