Whanganui District Council comes to senses

Whanganui in bloom - credit: Signposts - Te Ara Encyclopaedia of New Zealand (http://blog.teara.govt.nz/)

The Whanganui District Council voted Monday night to reverse a earlier decision supporting a Christian prayer as part of its official meetings. This had been in contention for four months and produced a lot of emotion, and often acrimonious debate, in the local media. The change in heart appears to have been at least partly motivated by the possibility of legal action. Perhaps the financial consequences of  a legal defeat has been brought home to the Council by the experience of the Bideford Town Council in the UK (see Defeat for imposed prayer and Priviliged whinging?)

The Whanganui District Council news has been reported quote widely – see:

Wanganui District Council abolishes prayer;
Council votes to stop prayer at meetings;
Wanganui District Council abolishes prayer;
Council ditches prayer;
Secular support for prayer challenge;
A Win in Wanganui;
Wanganui District Council abolishes prayer;
Solomon pleased prayer off agenda;
Wanganui District Council Drops Prayer;
Wanganui District Council Drops Prayer;
Freedom of religion wins in Whanganui

Motivated by religious privilege rather than religious freedom?

But I was interested in details of the vote on the two resolutions involved. The first resolution revoked a previous support for the prayers. The second resolution allowed “that the prayer be recited prior to the formal commencement of the Council meeting.”

I would have thought everyone should be satisfied. The theologically inclined could continue with their prayer, but they would no longer be able to impose it on other members of the council. A Win-Win situation?

Then why did several councillors who opposed removing the prayer from the official business vote against the prayers “prior to the formal commencement” of official business,” or abstain from the vote? What motivated their position?(See Wanganui Council resolves prayer debate for details of the voting).

Were they in fact more interested on imposing the prayers on others, than in praying themselves?

Unfortunately, I often feel this is the real position of those militant Christians who demand imposition of non-consensual prayer. They might prattle on about freedom of region but really what they are demanding is continuation of Christian privilege in a pluralist society where such privilege violates the religious freedom of others. (Incidentally, it also makes the Christian position appear bad because it supports imposition and opposes the freedom of others).

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3 responses to “Whanganui District Council comes to senses

  1. People are free to practice their religion in their private life. Religious bias should not be afforded the continued privilege by historical default by right. As we no doubt become a more integrated society, with multiculturalism the inevitable outcome, secularism in the public arena is the only viable and workable option, otherwise we could end up with the bizarre situation of trying to equally pander to all faith constructs and none.
    I good decision by the council….well done!!!


  2. Perhaps the financial consequences of a legal defeat has been brought home to the Council…

    It takes a hit to the hip pocket nerve to wake some dolts up.
    They couldn’t do the right thing by themselves.
    Nothing stops them from having a little magical incantation prayer ritual in the carpark, or at home or in the toilets or in the Council chambers before the official meeting starts but no, that wasn’t what they wanted.


  3. we visited Whanganui last year in april, the picture above doesnt do the bloom justice, we thought it was fantastic..


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