Ontario MPPs vote to continue using Lord’s Prayer

MPPs from all three parties today banded together to spare the daily recital of the Lord’s Prayer in the Legislature.

Putting to rest a controversy ignited by Premier Dalton McGuinty four months ago, Liberals, Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats voted unanimously on a compromise today.

Under the new arrangement, the traditional Christian prayer would continue to be read each morning with other prayers rotated daily.

“Is it a perfect result? Perhaps, perhaps not,” said Government House Leader Michael Bryant, who was left to broker a solution to the problem caused by McGuinty opening what many critics dubbed a Pandora’s Box.

The motion, passed by a vote of 58-0, read:

“That the Speaker commence each meeting day of the Assembly by reciting the Lord’s Prayer, followed by another prayer, or the presentation of a verse or passage, or call for a moment of silent reflection, or any such other similar activity which, in the opinion of the Speaker, will serve to reflect over time the general demographic composition of this chamber and of the province of Ontario.”

Speaker Steve Peters said the Lord’s Prayer would be joined by a daily rotation of eight other prayers from major denominations plus a moment of silence to appease agnostics and atheists.

NDP MPP Peter Kormos (Welland) said the entire debacle was an embarrassment to the Liberal government.

“McGuinty tried to abolish the Lord’s Prayer and the Opposition stopped him,” crowed Kormos.

“McGuinty got stopped in his tracks,” he said.

For his part, the premier skipped the vote, but his office said he would be issuing a statement later.

Progressive Conservative MPP Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North), a member of the all-party committee that made the compromise recommendation, said parliamentarians were flooded with complaints from Ontarians concerned that the Lord’s Prayer would be scrapped.

More than 20,000 Ontarians wrote letters and emails about the issue with 89 per cent of them opposing the removal of the Lord’s Prayer.

The motion had been set for this morning as a voice vote, but Tory MPP Tim Hudak (Niagara West-Glanbrook) insisted it be held as a recorded vote.

That move was designed to encourage Liberal MPPs, who privately expressed concern about McGuinty’s scheme, to vote against the government.

But in the end, there was no dissent.

The premier stunned members of all three parties on Feb. 13 when he launched a broadside against the tradition.

“It’s time for us to ensure that we have a prayer that better reflects our diversity,” McGuinty, who is Roman Catholic, said at the time.

“The members of the Ontario Legislature reflect the diversity of Ontario — be it Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or agnostic. It is time for our practices to do the same. That is the Ontario way,” he wrote in a letter to the other party leaders.

Even his own mother, Elizabeth, chided McGuinty for broaching the issue.

“This is not an easy thing for my mother,” the premier said last month.

http://www.thestar.com/News/Ontario/article/442074

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