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Secular organization calls on West Kelowna to cease prayers during inaugural council meetings

City asked to stop prayer

A B.C. secular organization aiming to stop prayer in political arenas and schools is taking aim at seven municipalities in the province including West Kelowna.

The BC Humanist Association is calling out West Kelowna as one of seven municipalities in B.C. to include prayers in its 2022 inaugural council meetings.

According to the association, the inclusion of a prayer contradicts a 2015 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that stated the inclusion of prayer in municipal council was "unconstitutional" and a violation of the state's duty of religious neutrality.

A report released this week by the BCHA says 26 municipalities included prayer during inaugural council meetings back in 2018.

"Municipal council chambers should be a place that is welcoming to all, regardless of their belief or lack thereof," said BCHA research co-ordinator Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff.

"The Supreme Court is clear that local governments have a duty of religious neutrality and this means that they cannot include prayer in council meetings."

The association says while opening meetings with a prayer seems to be becoming a thing of the past, there are still some holdouts, including the City of Vancouver, which had five different theists deliver a collective prayer.

Belcarra, Colwood, Delta, Parksville and Tumbler Ridge also included prayer during its inaugural meeting last year.

The BCHA says it will follow up with the seven municipalities to ask them again "to follow the law."

West Kelowna Fire Department chaplain Don Richmond delivered the opening prayer.

When contacted for comment, the City of West Kelowna said the request has been noted for council and staff consideration.

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