JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Assembly religious spat escalates

Date

Lisa Cox, Noel Towell

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher says Labor MLAs will not take part in the ceremony as a matter of principle.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher says Labor MLAs will not take part in the ceremony as a matter of principle. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Religious tension between the ACT’s Chief Minister and the Speaker of the Assembly has escalated nearly three weeks before the chamber is first due to sit.

Liberals’ speaker Vicki Dunne has become more insistent that Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and her Labor MLAs join in a church service to mark the beginning of the new Assembly on February 11.

But Ms Gallagher is insisting ‘‘as a matter of principle’’ that she and her colleagues will not take part in the ceremony.

Liberal Vicki Dunne wants all MLAs to attend a church service to mark the beginning of the new Assembly.

Liberal Vicki Dunne wants all MLAs to attend a church service to mark the beginning of the new Assembly. Photo: Colleen Petch

Mrs Dunne wrote to the Chief Minister last week asking her again to attend the service and to join a procession at the beginning of the ceremony and address the congregation.

‘‘Notwithstanding the Labor Party’s stance on the issue, I still am pleased to invite you, as the territory’s Chief Minister, to attend and participate in the service,’’ Mrs Dunne said in her letter.

‘‘Firstly, I invite you to walk with me in the procession at the commencement and in the recession at the conclusion of the service.

‘‘Secondly, I invite you to speak to offer a greeting to the gathering. I would appreciate your co-operation by keeping the greeting to about 300 words.’’

Mrs Dunne said the service would be conducted according to Christian liturgy, but she would invite representatives from the ‘‘broader spiritual community’’ to the event.

‘‘I hope this church service will establish a strong and lasting link between the Assembly and the many spiritual communities across Canberra,’’ Mrs Dunne’s letter said.

In her reply, Ms Gallagher reiterated the government’s position that ‘‘as a matter of principle, we are opposed to creating a formal nexus between religious worship and the Legislative Assembly.”

The Chief Minister said Canberra had been well served by the secular basis of the Assembly.

‘‘I therefore advise that I will not be accepting your invitation to attend and participate in the service, but I wish you all the best for the day.’’

Ms Gallagher said on Tuesday that the ceremony could be seen as the beginning of a formal link between the Assembly and the church if she attended. ‘‘‘I don’t want to appear churlish or disrespectful, my declining of the invitation is to make sure we keep the Assembly as the secular institution it has always been.

‘‘If that is to change it should be done by a vote of the Assembly, not a day that was organised by the Speaker.’’

Mrs Dunne confirmed that the ceremony would go ahead whether the Chief Minister attended.

‘‘As is completely proper I extended an invitation to the Chief Minister,’’ she said.

‘‘Whether the Chief Minister decides to attend this community event or not is completely her decision.’’

87 comments

  • We must preserve separation between church (an institution of a biassed and out-of-date minority) and state (an institution of all the people), other wise the thinking majority is compromised.

    Commenter
    Mandelbrot
    Location
    Sinny
    Date and time
    January 22, 2013, 4:14PM
    • Mandelbrot, did you ever thing that just for one minute that you could be wrong, I like to have an each way bet personally.

      Commenter
      Bishop
      Location
      Purgatory
      Date and time
      January 22, 2013, 5:25PM
    • Did you realise that many of our laws, medical systems, schooling systems, legal system and our basic hygiene "laws" are from the bible? It's nice to have separation I'm sure, but when you represent ALL the people, perhaps participating in this isn't so much an involvement of religion as it is an acceptance of the people in the community. Could it actually say that ALL views are worth listening to, taking into account and bearing some kind of weight? Could it be that the people we choose to represent us would actually factor in what the beliefs of members are when choosing to do certain things?

      Commenter
      undefined
      Date and time
      January 22, 2013, 7:45PM
    • The 'separation between Church and State' concept is, I believe, one which was developed by and for the United States. Britain, and presumably the British Commonwealth countries, have an established State Church (Anglican) -- so not only is there no legal separation between Church and State, but there is a longstanding relationship between the two. (I am happy to be corrected on this if I am wrong.) Still, I believe that Katy should stick to her guns on this one and that there is absolutely no need to inject religion, of any type, into Assembly matters.

      Commenter
      Karina
      Location
      Belconnen
      Date and time
      January 22, 2013, 9:08PM
    • Mandelbrot, it's just a token 'tradition' that is upkept due to the background of the Constitution including that which flows on to the States and Territories. Another example is the existence of the Governor General. Tokenism and of little real value as the "Queens" representative. Yes, we could do without both just like we could do without football and putting a shrimp on the barbie, but why bother making a big deal about it. Some people like 'tradition' and other people see it's unnecessary but a fact of life. Come to think of it some people Santa Claus is outdated too. To ensure separation between Government and the Church the voting public should vote to keep religious politicians out of government and ensure they do not impose their beliefs on the broader public via legislation and policy. That would make a far greater impact than worrying about token traditions like this issue.

      Commenter
      Felix
      Location
      ACT
      Date and time
      January 22, 2013, 9:11PM
    • Undefined - I don’t really care so much about where things come from but where they are going. The Bible was once a useful tool for forming morals, but things change, that was written thousands of years ago; we should probably conduct a review every now and then.

      It would be nice to be able to represent ALL people but it’s not really possible. So instead it would be better for the government to remain impartial. MPs can have religion but the parliament shouldn’t. And shouldn’t we respect Katey’s right not to attend?

      Commenter
      Tom
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      January 23, 2013, 10:52AM
    • The most recent census indicates that 61% of people identified as Christian - hardly a minority.

      Commenter
      Andrea
      Date and time
      January 23, 2013, 10:59AM
    • Correction: It appears that this was not previously a ‘tradition’ with for the ACT Assembly but one that Dunne wants to introduce based on more recent media on the subject (see below). Not necessary for her to re-invent the wheel methinks. Possibly the only ones who may attend are Zed Seselja and his entourage. Then again Zed’s a staunch Catholic and this service is proposed at the Anglican Church. Wonder whether there will be a de-marcation dispute here. Perhaps Zed will complain it’s not being held at a Catholic Church? Is Dunne an Anglican? What does Zed have to say about this, perhaps his views are appropriate as well as other Assembly members.

      Dunne's church service shunned by majority
      http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/dunnes-church-service-shunned-by-majority-20130123-2d6m9.html
      ….The Canberra Times understands a majority of the Assembly's 17 MLAs have now said they will not be participating in the church service, which has not previously been a tradition for the start of an ACT political year….

      Commenter
      Felix
      Location
      ACT
      Date and time
      January 23, 2013, 4:29PM
    • Undefined: "Did you realise that many of our laws, medical systems, schooling systems, legal system and our basic hygiene "laws" are from the bible?"

      Incorrect, much of what is written in the bible was already common practice many years before the bible was ever put to paper, there is a reason the bible reflects the views of the time it was written.

      Commenter
      Lurchi
      Date and time
      January 23, 2013, 7:04PM
  • We really need far more seperation of religion and law. Stick your ground Ms Gallagher. As for you Ms Dunn, why don't you keep your religious choice to yourself

    Commenter
    Joe
    Date and time
    January 22, 2013, 4:23PM

    More comments

    Comments are now closed

    Related Coverage

    Featured advertisers

    Special offers

    Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo