Our father, hushed be thy name.
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that a Quebec municipal council must stop reciting a Catholic prayer at its meetings.
The unanimous ruling in Mouvement laïque québécois v. Saguenay resolves an eight-year back-and-forth legal battle between Saguenay, Que. Mayor Jean Tremblay and secular-rights activists.
A human rights council ordered a stop to prayers in 2011, but the federal Court of Appeal overturned that decision in 2013.
On Wednesday, the country’s top court said the state has a duty of religious neutrality, “which means that it must neither favour nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non‑belief.”
The ruling could have nation-wide implications for the many towns and cities that count prayers as part of council meetings.
Ottawa is one of them. Mayor Jim Watson immediately suspended council prayers pending a review of the decision and Regina city council dropped its pre-meeting prayer outright. Mississauga, Ont., has previously debated the appropriateness of its prayer, seems poised to stop as well.
Prayers have become increasingly contentious at meetings in recent years. Secular groups and individual critics have blasted them as discriminatory or at least non-inclusive, calling on councils to stop.
The city of Brampton, Ont. recently tried to appease critics by introducing a “secular prayer” but, like any good compromise, it left everybody mad.
The court decision may finally put all that argument to rest. Forever and ever, amen.