Council holds off on prayer decision

Duane Hicks

Town council won’t be too hasty in eliminating opening prayers at its meetings.
The topic recently made headlines across Canada after the Supreme Court weighed in on the use of an opening prayer at municipal council meetings in Saguenay, Que., Fort Frances clerk Lisa Slomke told council in a report received Monday night.
Slomke noted a fellow clerk polled Ontario municipalities earlier this year—before the ruling—to determine whether the current practice is to recite a prayer/blessing at their meetings or not.
Of the 220 responses received, only 20 of those currently recite the Lord’s Prayer while another 34 recite another prayer/blessing, she said.
On the other, Slomke added it’s important to note that while 220 responses is good, council should keep in mind that there are more than 400 municipalities in Ontario.
As such, 220 responses represents just over half of the total.
Slomke said Monday night that it’s a decision of council as to whether it continues with the prayer or move to another option, such as a moment of reflection, a moment of silence, or nothing at all.
Mayor Roy Avis said the town has received two comments in writing from the public—both of which were against council having the opening prayer.
“Seeing that the Supreme Court ruled, it’s up to council to either make a decision or stay it for the time being,” he told council Monday night.
“There’s a whole lot of ‘yays’ and ‘nays’ to this,” said Coun. Paul Ryan.
“I was listening to CBC today,” he noted. “Councillors are adamant they’re going to keep the prayer, others aren’t.
“I think we should take a wait-and-see attitude; see just what fleshes out of this,” Coun. Ryan added.
“There’s no harm in doing that, I think.
“I don’t see the police coming to the door or anything on this matter, so we have a little time to decide what we’re going to do,” reasoned Coun. Ryan, adding only two complaints from residents have been received.
“I say we let it ride for now,” agreed Coun. Doug Kitowski.
The prayer recited before each council meeting here is as follows:
“O Lord God Almighty who ruleth the nations of the earth, we humbly beseech thee with thy favour to behold our sovereign lady, Queen Elizabeth, that in all things she be led by thy guidance and protected by thy power.
“We pray thee also to protect all of the Royal Family. Endue with wisdom the Governor General of this Dominion, the Lieutenant-Governors of the Provinces, the Legislators of the Commonwealth, and all who are set in authority, especially the municipal council of this town, now settled, that all things may be so ordered and settled by their endeavours upon the best and surest foundations, that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety, may be established among us for all generations; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Council received the clerk’s report but agreed to postpone any decision for now.