Winnipeg city council asked to drop prayers at meetings

Winnipeg city councillors are being asked by some people to stop praying at the start of meetings.

'It's not the modern way of doing government,' says resident who launched petition

Winnipeg city councillors are being asked by some people to stop praying at the start of meetings.

About 300 people have signed a petition delivered to city hall on Wednesday that calls on councillors to eliminate religious exercises at meetings.

Robert McGregor, a member of the Winnipeg Secularists, said he launched the petition after he attended a recent council meeting and was asked to stand for a prayer.

"As someone who is not Christian and who's non-religious, I felt fairly uncomfortable in that situation," McGregor told CBC News on Wednesday.

"I thought I was there for a city council meeting, not a church service."

According to McGregor, census figures indicate the majority of people in Winnipeg are not Christian, but he believes councillors are afraid of dropping prayers from meeting agendas out of fear of offending Christian voters.

"It's not with the times. It's not the modern way of doing government, I think," he said.

"So what we propose as an alternative is to just have a moment of silence."

Officials with the city clerk's office told CBC News that saying a prayer at the start of council meetings has been a long-standing tradition.

The prayer is non-denominational and councillors take turns at successive meetings to lead it, according to a spokesperson.

The city says it has not yet received a petition on the matter.

Prayer example

This is a transcript of a recent council meeting prayer by Coun. Thomas Steen:

As we gather here today as members of city council, we pray that we are ever mindful of opportunities to render our service to fellow citizens and to our community, keeping in mind always, the enduring values of life and exerting our efforts in those areas and on those things upon which future generations can build with confidence.

Let us continue to strive to make a better world.