Sample Prayers make Clerk "the arbiter of religious dogma"

The BC Humanist Association is calling on the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia to scrap a planned update to the so-called "sample prayers."

Each day of sitting in the Legislature begins with prayers said by a different MLA. Following pressure from the BCHA, the practice that was updated to include secular "reflections" at the end of 2019.

The Office of the Clerk has provided MLAs with a set of five sample prayers that they could select from. MLAs are also free to write their own prayer (or reflection). In House of Prayers, the BCHA found that half of all prayers said in the Legislature were sample prayers.

In August 2019, the Clerk's Office announced that they were reviewing the sample prayers and planned to release a new list including samples from more diverse traditions.

The BCHA's new pamphlet, Thoughts on Prayers: The Arbiters of Faith, poses follow-up questions about the process of selecting sample prayers and argues instead that the writing of prayers and reflections should be left to MLAs themselves.

These questions form the basis for an academic review that was published in September 2020. That review looked at whether the process of selecting prayers can be reconciled with Canadian jurisprudence and the practical limitations of the process. In particular, the Supreme Court of Canada has said that "the state is in no position to be, nor should it become, the arbiter of religious dogma."

Download Thoughts on Prayers: The Arbiters of Faith

Read the paper: Bushfield, I. and Phelps Bondaroff, T.N., 2020. The Arbiters of Faith: Legislative Assembly of BC Entanglement with Religious Dogma Resulting from Legislative Prayer. Secularism and Nonreligion, 9, p.8. DOI:

Photo credit: Wikimedia/Voyager

Page updated June 17, 2021

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