Council prayer row
Councillors spent around 30 minutes at Tuesday night’s meeting debating whether the Lord Mayor should read a multi-faith prayer at the start of meetings, after spending nearly the same amount of the time on the issue in a committee meeting the week prior.
Prayer has been one of the greatest points of division for the current elected body and last month sparked a legal threat from South Ward councillor Henry Davis and a protest by the Australian Christian Lobby.
On August 22, the council changed its opening prayer to a non-denominational pledge that reads: “May we in this meeting speak honestly, listen attentively, think clearly and decide wisely for the good governance of the City of Adelaide and the wellbeing of those we serve.”
The new pledge – voted through with the support of councillors Keiran Snape, Phillip Martin, David Elliott, Jing Li, Mark Siebentritt and Janet Giles – was in place for two council meetings.
But the August 22 change did not formally remove the prayer from the council’s meeting procedures, with the agenda item listed as “prayer/pledge”.
Central Ward councillor Carmel Noon put forward a motion on Tuesday to include a multi-faith prayer before the pledge, pitching it as a “compromise” and arguing that the “prayer and pledge can live together [and] not just a heading for a council agenda item”.
The multi-faith prayer reads: “We pray for wisdom, courage, empathy, understanding and guidance in the decisions that we make, whilst seeking and respecting the opinions of others.”
The original prayer read: “Almighty God, we ask your blessing upon the works of the City of Adelaide; direct and prosper its deliberations to the advancement of your glory and the true welfare of the people of this City. Amen.”
Noon’s new prayer was passed 6-4 with her vote and the support of councillors Mary Couros, Jing Li, Simon Hou and Arman Abrahimzadeh.
Councillor Davis also supported the motion and confirmed to InDaily last night he would drop his legal threat against the council in light of the new prayer arrangements.
Prior to the vote, Noon said: “We can’t just throw out tradition because of our own personal beliefs.”
“The council is steeped in Christianity connotations including are very own cres,t and Queen Adelaide herself was a deeply Christian person,” she said.
“Even the welcome acknowledgement to country is spiritual and means, on many websites, deep spritaul connections to the land, and yet that is not under threat.”
Noon said councillors had received “many many letters pleading with us not to remove the prayer”, adding she only received two letters supporting removal of the prayer.
“This is my common ground offering, which does somewhat go towards protecting traditions,” she said.
“I pray that my fellow councillor will see that what I’m proposing addresses the major issue that I’m hearing: that we need to be more inclusive of everyone.”
Central Ward councillor David Elliott criticised the prayer discussion on the floor of the chamber, describing it as a “complete waste of time over the last few months”.
“I think in terms of what importance this seems to hold, certainly for the ratepayers and the residents of Adelaide, is this isn’t substantive business,” he said.
“We’ve spent months going over this, we’ve spent god knows how many dollars of ratepayer money providing advice on a matter of procedure on a line in our agenda of who we acknowledge and saying, ‘this is what’s really important to people’.
“This is what people are paying for, and this is why people think our council is an absolute shambles.
“This is why they think we’re all a bunch of crackpots because we spend all of our time listening to sermons in council chambers talking about a matter of procedure at the opening of our meetings.”
Another part of councillor Noon’s motion – which would have invited councillors to, if they wish, read the prayer/pledge aloud with the Lord Mayor – was not successful.
That part of the motion was tied 5-5 on the floor and voted down by Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith, who holds the casting vote in the event of a tie.
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