Quebec Mayor Fighting to Reverse Ban on City Council Prayers

A Canadian mayor from the province of Quebec is challenging a city ban of council prayers by arguing before a court that Canada's own constitution acknowledges the role of God in government.

Jean Tremblay, Saguenay's mayor, argued before a judge on Monday that city council meetings should be allowed to begin with a prayer if that is the choice of the participants.

"For sure, when you go to court, you expect to win," Tremblay said in an interview Sunday. "But it is not only the trial of Jean Tremblay. It is more than that: it is about the whole culture of Quebec."

During the court hearing, he evoked the 1982 Constitution Act, which states: "Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law."

Montreal CTV News reported that Tremblay is also fighting to preserve Quebec's Roman Catholic heritage. In a 2001 census, more than 83 percent of residents said that they were Catholic Christians.

The Quebec human rights tribunal, however, has been working hard to take down religious influences across the province. It has called for the city council prayers to be dropped, for crucifixes in city council chambers to be removed, and damages to be paid to the citizen who first complained about the prayers.

As a response, Tremblay has launched a drive to raise money for the court case. He has also said that many of Saguenay residents are behind him in his fight, and have contributed financially to his goal of re-establishing the prayers.

The mayor has also warned that such restrictions could threaten a lot of other Canadian traditions and institutions, such as its national currency, the national anthem, oaths, monuments and religious holidays, which all make references to God in one way or another.

"Wouldn't you rather have a mayor who worships than a mayor who worships money?," asked Richard Bergeron, one of Tremblay's attorneys, noting an ongoing corruption scandal that has hit the province in recent months.

The Quebec Court of Appeal is currently hearing the case, but no decision has been reached as of yet.