The Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick in Canada has turned down requests to have Hindu opening-prayer in an upcoming session.
Responding to distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed’s request to read Hindu opening-prayer in an upcoming session of New Brunswick Legislative Assembly, the Assembly Clerk Shayne Davies wrote: “As indicated by the Speaker, we must respectfully decline your offer. Our well-established practice dating back over a century has been to start each day with a prayer consisting of two separate invocations followed by the Lord’s Prayer…At this time, the Assembly does not intend to deviate from this practice.”
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, feels that it is simply a case of blatant unfairness, exclusionary attitude, discrimination, favoritism, imposing one kind of religious observance; and does not speak well of a democratic society. “There is no process of appeal” against this denial of Hindu prayer, he was told.
Adherents of minority religions and non-believers, who had made a lot of contributions to New Brunswick and Canada and continued to do so and paid their share of the taxes, thus felt left out by this monopoly on prayer. Not allowing prayers of minority religions in the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly seemed like efforts at belittling these faiths under government patronage; Rajan Zed pointed out in a statement today.
Democratic governments should not be in the business of promoting one religion and excluding others and non-believers and thus infringing upon the human rights of minority religions and non-believers; Zed, who has opened both the United States Senate and US House of Representatives in Washington DC with Hindu prayers, emphasized.
Rajan Zed further said that the privileges and conventions handling the prayer in the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly needed to be urgently changed as we were well into the 21st century and New Brunswick was much more religiously diverse now.
Zed suggested that it was time for the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly to move to multi-faith opening prayers. Since New Brunswick Legislative Assembly represented every resident of New Brunswick irrespective of religion/denomination/non-belief, it would be quite befitting in this increasingly diverse state to do a rotation of prayers representing major religions and aboriginal spirituality and including slots for the thoughts of non-believers.
Rajan Zed was of the view that the existence of different religions was an evident symbol of God’s generosity and munificence. The New Brunswick Legislative Assembly should quest for a unity that hailed diversity.
Currently, members read the prayer, but it has varied over the years. According to reports, a chaplain appointed by the Speaker read the prayers for many years and pages and clerks have also been used. Since the legislature’s inception and adoption of Routine Proceedings, there has been an opening prayer. Lord’s Prayer is a well-known prayer in Christianity.
Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about 1.2 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.
Based in Fredericton, the first session of the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly was held in 1786. It has 49 seats and the Speaker (currently Bill Oliver) is the head of the office, and the Clerk serves as the deputy head.