Public prayer could be suspended by Kelowna council
By John McDonald
Kelowna city council will consider whether to suspend prayers at public meetings.
(ADAM PROSKIW /InfoTel Multimedia)
April 24, 2015 - 1:02 PM
KELOWNA - City councillors are moving quickly to stem possible controversy over its practice of offering a prayer before some council meetings in the wake of a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling.
City clerk Stephen Fleming, in a report going before council Monday morning, will offer three options for consideration; suspend the recital of a prayer, continue the practice, which Fleming points out will likely be challenged either to the Supreme Court of B.C. or the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, or replace the prayer with a moment of silent personal reflection where individuals could choose to pray to the diety of their choice or not pray at all if that relected their beliefs.
In his report, Fleming said prayer at Kelowna council meetings first started under Mayor James Ladd in 1956 but was dropped in 1994, then reinstated in 2000.
Under the current council procedures bylaw, prayers are only offered at public hearings held every two weeks in council chambers.
Councillors are free to choose from one of 26 stock prayers or give one of their own.
The Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled the state must maintain strict neutrality in religious matters and found that reciting a prayer before a council meeting is a breach of that neutrality.
Muncipal councils and other public bodies across Canada are reviewing their practices in the wake of the ruling, which came after a protracted legal battle over prayers offered at council meetings in Saugenay, Quebec.
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