Because the issue of prayer in the Legislature could become a topic of discussion as the House sits again on Oct. 7, I want to let my constituents know my views on this topic.
Above all, our Legislature is a representative institution that must represent, or mirror, the views of British Columbians. That’s the meaning of democracy. Society is becoming more secular and the Legislature is reflecting that change. However, there are well over a million people of faith in B.C., and the Peoples’ House needs to reflect their beliefs, too. As a Christian myself, I do not want my right to pray in public to be eroded.
If we really value diversity in B.C., we will welcome people of all worldviews, including humanist as well as religious worldviews. This diversity is reflected in prayers that are actually given. Some are Christian prayers, some are Sikh, Muslim or other prayers. Some are not prayers at all, but reflections by people who do not consider themselves to be religious. I welcome these expressions along with my own.
It is not tolerant to push people of faith to the margins of our culture. Just as I accept atheists and humanists, so atheists and humanists should accept me. Tolerance means that we accept each other, whether from a humanist or a religious perspective, welcoming each other into the mainstream of society.
Religion is one of the “original freedoms,” as the Supreme Court has said, so religious toleration is essential in a free and democratic country. Religious intolerance is a classic characteristic of countries that are neither free nor democratic.
Representative, diverse and tolerant — that’s what I want my Legislature to be.
Finally, while I will continue to support a few moments of reflection at the beginning of every sitting day, which I think is a healthy practice for anyone, I would not oppose amending the Standing Orders to introduce the House with “Prayers or Reflections” instead of prayers alone, just to make sure everyone is included.