30 Wrongs Don't Make a Right (Prayer in the Legislature)
February 19, 2008 by Paul McKeever
My response, published here, to John Oakley’s article in yesterday’s National Post (possibly, Oakley’s article was only on the online version of the paper):
The issue here is not about whether people say prayers before engaging in the legislative process. The issue is that some people want prayers said aloud, and as part of the official ceremony of legislating.
Given that such people are not prevented from praying, the only plausible motivation for having everyone say a prayer aloud and in unison is: for the state to declare that it officially reveres an alleged supernatural being, and that it is guided by – or obedient to – the ethical commandments allegedly made by said being.
Adding more prayers, from different faiths, would have the effect of having the state declare that it reveres several/all supernatural beings, and is guided by/obedient to the ethical commandments allegedly being made by all of those beings. It would be impossible actually to set one moral compass simultaneously in accordance with the conflicting dogma offered by differing religions, and even many who would want multiple prayers know this. The only possible and achievable goal of praying to multiple alleged gods is: to declare that, in making law-making decisions, the legislature will consider supernatural commandments to be a source of knowledge about what policies should and should not be adopted.
Perhaps owing to most Christians’ allowance that one should render only unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, rational investigation of the facts of reality has been possible in the west, and knowledge and wealth have grown relatively well. However, the possibility of rational thought and free action arose despite, not because of, religious beliefs and public chanting of the Lord’s Prayer. In the east, where religions have been less tolerant of rational, independent thought, the growth of knowledge and wealth has been relatively slowed or completely stunted. As proponents of eastern religions move to Ontario, it is more important than ever that Ontario’s government declare that it is not under, accountable to, or obedient to, anyone’s alleged supernatural being. If, instead of simply removing all official chantings of religion from the proceedings of our legislature, we add more prayers from more religions, we will be officially sanctioning the notion that our government must comply with the whims even of alleged supernatural beings who forbid rationality, who condemn knowledge as a forbidden fruit, or who condemn wealth creation while praising self-sacrifice.
If we want Ontario to remain a place in which everyone is free to think as they wish, and to engage in consensual activities of their choice; to dress and eat and express themselves as they wish; to think for themselves, and to question aloud both alleged authority and dogma; to engage in rational efforts to discover knowledge and develop technologies; to pursue their own happiness; if that is the sort of Ontario we wish to retain, then we must make it clear to people of all faiths that our legislature’s “moral compass” is not set or determined by anyone’s religious beliefs. We cannot simultaneously make such a declaration and maintain the practice of praying aloud to one or more allegedly supernatural beings.
At the same time, it seems reasonable for those who are about to regulate our lives to take a moment to reflect on the gravity of what they are doing. A minute or two of silence would facilitate that purpose quite well, and should replace the saying of any prayer or any public recognition of the allegedly supernatural.
Paul McKeever, B.Sc.(Hons), M.A., LL.B.
Leader, Freedom Party of Ontario