New Brunswick

Saint John council drops prayer at meetings after court ruling

Saint John council dropped its long-standing tradition of opening its regular meetings with a prayer on Monday night, following a Supreme Court ruling earlier this month.

Mayor Mel Norton says council will respect the Supreme Court's decision

Saint John council dropped its long-standing tradition of opening its regular meetings with a prayer on Monday night, following a Supreme Court ruling earlier this month.

Saint John Mayor Mel Norton says the council chamber belongs to everyone, irrespective of their faith. (CBC)
The decision comes after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Saguenay, Que., must stop reciting a prayer at the start of town council meetings.

The judges found that reciting a Catholic prayer at municipal council meetings infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.

Saint John Mayor Mel Norton said city council is going to respect the ruling by the country's top court.

"As a place of government, as the seat of all people, this council chamber obviously belongs to those of faith and those who choose otherwise, those who choose not to have a faith walk or a faith belief. This is a council chamber for all citizens," he said.

Instead, Norton called for a moment of silence in honour of Saint John Police Force Const. Michael Hebert, who died on April 20.

Chris London, a Saint John resident and co-founder of Fundy Freethought, a group that promotes education, reason and logic through social events and online forums, had written an open letter to city council, calling on them to abide by the decision "immediately."

He said he is not anti-religious, but doesn't feel the government has a place in religion.

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