Calgary

Calgary city council votes to stop opening prayer at meetings

In a vote of 11-4, Calgary city council decided that councillors would not longer begin each meeting with a short prayer.

Decision follows unanimous ruling by Supreme Court of Canada earlier this month

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says council will likely replace the prayer with a moment of quiet reflection. (CBC)

A decades-old tradition at Calgary City Hall has officially come to an end.

In an 11-4 vote, councillors decided they will not longer begin each meeting with a short prayer.

The decision follows a unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada earlier this month. The court said the practice of starting municipal meetings in Saguenay, Que., with a Catholic prayer was an infringement of freedom of religion and conscience rights.

"Council said we have to abide by the Supreme Court ruling, so we'll no longer have an opening prayer but left it vague as to how we will open the meetings," Mayor Naheed Nenshi said.

He said council will, for now, likely replace the prayer with a moment of quiet contemplation.

"I understand why people feel that this is important," Nenshi said. "I also feel that we need to draw a line between the concept of religious neutrality and of secularism, but the law is the law."

Nenshi said the issue will become more clear-cut as other cities' practices become more clear, and council will then be able to determine what sort of things are acceptable for the meeting opening.

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