South Australia Parliament rejects Hindu prayer request

Both the houses of the South Australia Parliament, the House of Assembly and the Legislative Council, have turned down requests to have Hindu opening-prayer in one of their sessions.

On taking the Chair each day, South Australia House of Assembly Speaker and Legislative Council President (or delegate) read the Lord’s Prayer, a well-known prayer in Christianity. Lord’s Prayer has reportedly been read in the House of Assembly since 1918.

Responding to prayer request from distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed in an email; Lukas Price, Office Manager in House of Assembly Speaker’s Office, wrote: “…due to the provisions contained in the Standing Orders we are not able to accommodate your request…”; and Chris Schwarz, Clerk of the Legislative Council, wrote: “… it is not possible to grant your request.”

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, and who wrote to House of Assembly Speaker and Legislative Council President requesting that he be scheduled to read opening-prayer in one each of their sessions and received the denials; feels that it is simply a case of blatant unfairness, exclusionary attitude, discrimination; and does not speak well of a democratic society.

Adherents of minority religions and non-believers, who had made a lot of contributions to South Australia and Australia 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 Parliament 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 Standing Orders handling the prayer in the South Australia House of Assembly and the Legislative Council needed to be urgently changed as we were well into 21st century and South Australia was much more religiously diverse now.

Zed suggested that it was time for the South Australia Parliament to move to multi-faith opening prayers. Since South Australia Parliament represented every South Australian 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 indigenous spirituality and including slots for thoughts of non-believers.

Rajan Zed was of the view that existence of different religions was an evident symbol of God’s generosity and munificence. South Australia Parliament should quest for a unity that hailed diversity.

The Parliament of South Australia in Adelaide, which began in 1857, makes the laws that govern the State. Daniel Roy Cregan is Speaker of the House of Assembly and Terence John Stephens is President of the Legislative Council.

Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about 1.2 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.

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