The Parliamentary prayer has faithfully included reference to Jesus Christ since the founding of this nation 163 years ago.
So the people of New Zealand have the right to know why the Speaker of the House, who is not a Christian, has deleted reference to Jesus Christ from the Parliamentary prayer.
On November 10, the Speaker, the Right Honourable Trevor Mallard, proposed to amend the Parliamentary prayer to delete all reference to Jesus and the Queen. He has subsequently reinstated reference to the Queen.
Read more: Ken Orr: Should parliamentary prayer be amended
In 1854, a South Island Scot, James Macandrew, moved that the first act of the House of Representatives should be a public acknowledgment of the divine being and a supplication for his favour on its future labours, the motion being seconded by a Scot from Nelson. And it has been the custom for the Speaker to recite the prayer in Parliament at the commencement of each sitting day.
The previous prayer amended in 1962 is:
"Almighty God, humbly acknowledging our need for Thy guidance in all things, and laying aside all private and personal interests, we beseech Thee to grant that we may conduct the affairs of this House and of our country to the glory of Thy holy name, the maintenance of true religion and justice, the honour of the Queen, and the public welfare, peace, and tranquillity of New Zealand, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
It is disturbing that the Speaker has consulted only with Members of Parliament and that belatedly, after protest from the Opposition.
The prayer reflects the historical reality that New Zealand was founded by Christians who based our laws on Judeo-Christian principles.
The action of the Speaker is giving the community the false message that this is the post-Christian era and that Christ and Christianity are now irrelevant. This is a rejection of Christ, Christianity, the good news of our redemption, salvation and the promise of eternal life.
The prayer is not just the prayer of Parliament but is, indeed, the prayer of the people of New Zealand who acknowledge that we are His creation and that we continue to need His loving direction and protection.
We should remember with profound gratitude that God has blessed this nation with prosperity and His loving protection.
Since our nation's founding in 1850, our people have never been subject to invasion by a foreign enemy, we forget our need of God's protection at our peril.
The Speaker's action is offensive to many Christians — he should remember that Parliament belongs to the people and that he presides, as Speaker, on behalf of the people to ensure that the interests of the community are upheld.
He has acted without presenting to Parliament and the community any reasons for his actions. There is no justification for his unilateral decision to change the prayer.
New Zealand is still a Christian country — the Census conducted in 2013 disclosed that 48 per cent of the people identified with Christianity. How then can he justify deleting reference to Jesus?
It is culturally insensitive for the Speaker to now introduce the prayer in te reo Maori. We should have respect for Maori culture, however, it is estimated that there are only about 50,000 people in New Zealand who can speak te reo Maori well.
For the prayer to be meaningful it is imperative that it be in English, the language that all Members of Parliament understand. Parliament and the community should oppose this offensive and unnecessary amendment to our beautiful Parliamentary prayer.
■ Ken Orr is a spokesman for Right to Life