Lord's Prayer Under Fire in Australia

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Australian lawmakers are debating whether to continue reciting the Lord's Prayer before sessions -- a practice that has been part of the country's Parliament for more than 100 years.

Harry Jenkins, the speaker of Australia's House of Representatives, spoke out Sunday against the prayer, saying it may need to be reworded or replaced for use in governmental meetings.

"One of the most controversial aspects of the parliamentary day I found from practically day two is the prayer," Jenkins said. "On the one end of the spectrum is why have a prayer? The other end of the spectrum is where we have discussions about the words of the prayer. For people outside the parliament there are a lot of things they wish to discuss."

Jenkins made the comments after a new Parliament member, Rob Oakeshott, said he was disappointed that indigenous people were not acknowledged at the start of each session.

"I ask you to revisit this question of daily acknowledgement within this chamber," Oakeshott said in his first parliamentary speech.

Another leader expressed concern that Parliament would be seen as a "Christian club" and that it should be "more generic and inclusive."

A similar debate arose in Australia's Senate in 1997. Sen Bob Brown wanted the Lord's Prayer to be replaced with a "period of reflection" but his colleagues disagreed and the prayer remained.

Currently, more than 65 percent of Australians say they are Christians. There are two Jewish lawmakers but no Muslims or Aborigines.

Sources: Associated Press, AFP

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