MONTREAL, QC, Jan. 5, 2008 (CCRL) – Trois-Rivieres recently became the latest Quebec town to be told to refrain from holding prayers before council meetings.

In a non-binding decision, the province’s human rights commission said Trois-Rivieres and other Quebec towns still reciting prayers before council meetings should stop doing so as it constitutes a religious act which goes against the principle of neutrality of the state.

When issuing a similar ruling on Saguenay earlier this year the commission cited a 2006 ruling in Laval, north of Montreal, by the commission’s human rights tribunal and saw no need for that matter to make its way to a tribunal again. The commission considers complaints and decides whether they should be heard by the tribunal. It is not possible to go to the tribunal without first going through the commission.

The commission’s ruling this week was in response to the complaint of a citizen filed in 2007. The commission said people attending public meetings should not be subjected to beliefs they did not share.

– The League supports the right of all elected bodies to begin their meetings with prayer. The experience in Ontario suggests that the majority of people support maintaining this long-standing custom, perhaps augmented by the inclusion of prayers and reflections from other faith traditions.  The promotion of religious freedom and diversity should encourage us to embrace religious traditions, not banish them from public life.

– with a report from The Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Dec. 31, 2008