Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled that a small town in Quebec may not open its council meetings with prayer.
In a unanimous ruling April 15, Canada’s highest court ruled that the town of Saguenay can no longer publicly recite a Catholic prayer because it infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.
The case dates back to 2007, when a resident of Saguenay complained about public prayer at City Hall.
Just last year, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that legislative bodies such as city councils could begin their meetings with prayer, even if it plainly favors a specific religion.
But the Canadian high court ruled that the country’s social mores have “given rise to a concept of neutrality according to which the state must not interfere in religion and beliefs. The state must instead remain neutral in this regard. This neutrality requires that the state neither favor nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non belief.”
The court said a nondenominational prayer is still religious in nature and would exclude nonbelievers.