Prayer could be banned from Calgary City Hall

At Calgary’s city hall, reciting a prayer is a tradition that goes back decades, but the practice may now be unconstitutional.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi supports saying a prayer in a 'non-denominational way'

Should a prayer be part of city council meetings? The Supreme Court of Canada says no. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

At Calgary's city hall, reciting a prayer is a tradition that goes back decades, but the practice may now be unconstitutional.

The City of Calgary is reviewing a Supreme Court of Canada decision to see if it can continue starting city council and other public meetings with a prayer. The high court ruled Wednesday that the state must remain neutral and not interfere with religion or people's beliefs in a case involving the municipal council in the Quebec town of Saguenay.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he likes the opening prayer.

"We do it in a non-denominational way that is very inclusive.  Of course, I belong to a minority faith community myself, but I think that's important. I think that to remove faith entirely from the public discussion and to pretend that we're truly secular society I think doesn't lead to great outcomes."

The wording of prayer said in Calgary City Hall is:

Oh God, Author of all wisdom, knowledge and understanding. We ask Thy guidance in our consultations, to the end that truth and justice may prevail in all our judgements. Amen.

Kelley Ernst, president of the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association, said municipal councils may not have any choice but to drop opening prayers.

"The Supreme Court decision was quite clear about the neutrality of the state when it comes to religion — that the state isn't in the business of telling people who to or what not to believe."

It's not clear yet what will happen when Calgary city council meets next Monday.        


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