REGINA – Regina city council is suspending the practice of opening its meetings with a prayer, following a Supreme Court of Canada ruling Wednesday.
The court ruled unanimously that prayers cannot be recited before municipal council meetings in the Quebec town of Saguenay, setting an important precedent.
“I’ll get a formal word from our solicitors to read the ruling and its implications, but it seems pretty clear that that’s disallowed, so we’ll be suspending that from our council,” said Regina mayor, Michael Fougere.
The decision is in line with other Canadian city councils.
“We’ve had no complaints about that,” Fougere said. “Not in my time, my 17 years on council has one person been concerned or was offended by any of that, so we’ve continued that practice without any concern from the public at all.”
In 2007, atheist Alain Simoneau filed an initial complaint against the Saguenay city council. City officials introduced a bylaw in 2008, changing to a more neutral prayer, but in 2011 Quebec’s human rights tribunal ordered an end to the prayers and demanded that a crucifix in the city council chamber be removed.
They also awarded damages to Simoneau.