City councils across Canada are reacting differently to Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling that praying before council meetings is a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Ottawa mayor Jim Watson issued a statement shortly after the Supreme Court ruling, and before Wednesday's council meeting to say the prayer is out for now.
“As the Supreme Court has determined that reciting a prayer may contravene a municipal government’s duty of neutrality on matters of religious belief, and as it will take some time to fully assess this lengthy decision, City Council will not say a prayer this morning and will be reviewing this practice to ensure that the City of Ottawa conforms to the Supreme Court’s ruling," the statement read.
The Ottawa Citizen reports that the non-denominational prayer recited by council was adopted in 1999 following a previous court ruling forbidding The Lord's Prayer from being recited.
While Ottawa city council has dropped the prayer, so far Parliament, a short walk from city hall, has not. Both the House of Commons and Senate open each work day with a prayer. That practice could continue despite the court ruling if Parliamentarians choose to cite Parliamentary privilege which keeps judicial power at bay within the inner workings of Parliament.
Other city councils are vowing to keep their prayers before council, despite the court ruling.
Oshawa Mayor John Henry told the Toronto Star that he and his council will continue their tradition.
“I'm proud to be a Canadian,” Oshawa Mayor John Henry told the Star, shortly after hearing about the high court ruling. “I intend to continue doing the Lord's Prayer prior to the commencement of the council meetings.”
Henry made it clear that in Oshawa the prayer is recited just before the formal meeting commences in council chambers.
He said there is widespread support in Oshawa for carrying on with the practice. “We ask that people please join in the Lord's Prayer or take a moment of reflection.”
Oshawa isn't alone.
In Nova Scotia, Halifax councillors have asked staff to look into legal options while CBC reports that Cecil Clarke, the mayor of Cape Breton Regional Municipality, would continue to pray.
He says he and his colleagues will pray in private before council meetings if they have to.
"I will do my utmost to maintain that tradition, in whatever form," Clarke said Wednesday.
"If it means taking other legislative mechanisms to do that, then I will bring those forward for my colleagues."
Expect legal challenges to continue on this issue, especially against councils that do pray.
Humanist Canada, a lobby group for atheists, already launched legal proceedings against councils in Peterborough and Grey County, Ontario. Those court challenges were on hold pending the Supreme Court decision.