Canadian reader files lawsuit against prayers at city council meeting

April 23, 2015 • 2:17 pm

Here’s an activist reader: Veronica Abbass of Ontario filed suit against the Peterborough City Council for opening its meetings with prayers. This was back in 2012, but, as I reported recently, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled last week that, in Quebec, the Saguenay City Council couldn’t say prayers at its meetings, for that violated the Quebec Charter of Human Rights.

That ruling, however, is likely to hold throughout Canada. And so, on Monday, the Peterborough Council didn’t say its customary prayer:

Monday evening (April 20) marked the first time in years (and possibly decades) that Peterborough city councillors didn’t open a municipal meeting with the Lord’s Prayer.

The prayer was listed on the agenda for the Committee of the Whole, but councillors aren’t reciting it until the City’s legal staff can determine whether it’s against the law, according to Councillor Andrew Beamer, who chairs the Committee of the Whole.

The Supreme Court ruled on a specific case out of Saguenay, Quebec on April 15 — a decision that’s likely to set a precedent for all Canadian municipalities. Coun. Beamer can’t say yet whether the City will stop using the prayer altogether.

Veronica Abbass has taken issue with the City over the practice for years, and even filed a lawsuit against the City in 2012. That legal battle was put on hold to wait for the Supreme Court ruling.

Ms Abbass says city council will be breaking the law if they refuse to obey the Supreme Court ruling. She says she’ll continue with the lawsuit she’s filed unless the City hands over a written decision that states it’ll stop reciting the Lord’s Prayer for good.

Who’s a good reader? Here’s Ms. Abbass:

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Photo: Sarah Frank/This Week

39 thoughts on “Canadian reader files lawsuit against prayers at city council meeting

  1. Even though the prime minister is a religious fanatic(Read the Walrus magazine article available online) and while he is surrounded by equally religious dimwits, we do have clear thinking people such as Veronica Abbass to be thankful for.

    1. A religious fanatic who will not let the bozos in his party interfere with a woman’s right to control her own body. Some fanatic!

      So long as he keeps his party in line and does not let his beliefs colour his parliamentary actions, who cares what he believes in private?

      Mind you, I don’t much care for him or some of his government’s actions.

  2. Awesome, Abbass!

    It is nice when all it takes is one (1) person to return sanity to a whole city. Reminds me of recent Cat… Batman movies.

  3. We need more people like Veronica Abbass in the USA, too. Maybe she’d like to settle here after she cleans up Canada? 😉

    1. This gives hope to Canadians like me who are stuck in places like Mississippi…where they pray before departmental events at the University. We often receive prayer requests via e-mail as well. I went to a city council meeting recently, the mayor had vetoed a repeal of an equal rights policy that would simultaneously protect LGBT rights to health benefits (domestic partner benefits). The aldermen repealed the policy after realizing they had just extended these rights to the LGBT community. Before the city council meeting started, everyone was asked to bow their heads and pray while one of the preachers spoke aloud. I imagine that is how every city council meeting starts.

      I like it here in MS, but there is a lot of work needing to be done. Hopefully I don’t get deported when I finally complain about departmental prayer to the University president’s office!

      1. Edit*

        ” Gives hope to Canadians like me” would be more accurately stated as “is inspiring to Canadians like me”

      2. You have just reinforced my decision not to retire in any of the southern states. There would be no real escape from theocracy.

  4. Hilarious given how little interest there is here in this issue since religious people keep it to themslves.

  5. Kudos indeed.

    My understanding is that Ed Brayton over at ‘Dispatches from the Culture Wars’ is putting together a book about the absolute shitstorm of hate and anger which occurs against defendants in church/state issues who are out or outed. Violence and vandalism is the norm. So is wholesale public condemnation, as the religious majority (usually Christian) come together in one big howling mass of outrage.

    To all intents and purposes, they make no distinction between asking for the removal of religious ceremony or statements from governmental venues as a matter of law — and breaking into someone’s house and destroying their private, sacred property because you hate God and envy the faithful. They’re taking revenge … and they act like it. The idea that there can be a serious Constitutional issue involved here doesn’t seem to be on their radar. They’re standing up for God, and tempering their response to the damned no more than they expect God to temper His.

    I seriously hope Canada doesn’t have the same high level of hysterical pushback as the U.S. And I also hope Ed finishes his book soon. I’d read it.

  6. Good work up in Canada. I think the normal thing they throw at you down here in the religious U.S. is to give equal time for secular opening. Pretty lame.

    Always hope as I see the Madison, Wis. city council adopted what is probably the first city ordinance making nonreligion a protected class. If they are going to protect the religious they should damn well protect this group as well.

  7. Most impressive, Veronica!

    Perhaps if you find the time you could let Jerry know just what you’ve experienced from the opposition along the way.

  8. How things are done in the USA. All three tv networks have refused this ad from Freedom Of Religion Foundation featuring Ron Reagan: “Hi, I’m Ron Reagan, an unabashed atheist. and I’m alarmed by the intrusion of religion into our secular government. That’s why I’m asking you to support the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation’s largest and most effective association of atheists and agnostics, working to keep state and church separate, just like our Founding Fathers intended. Please support the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.”

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