Local Government Prayers in Australia


  • Luke Beck Monash University




local government, official prayers, post-secularism, Australia


Many local governments in Australia open their council meetings with prayer and have done so for some time. Yet this phenomenon has been largely ignored by the literature examining religion-government interactions in Australia. After outlining the origins of local government prayers, this article goes on to show that approximately one-third of Australian local governments have a prayer practice (rising to more than half of local governments in New South Wales and Victoria), that almost all of those prayer practices are
exclusively Christian, and that in some states communities with the smallest Christian populations are more likely to have a council with a prayer practice than communities with the largest Christian populations. This phenomenon does not sit neatly with existing accounts of post-secularism in Australia. The article suggests that local government prayers in Australia also pose a challenge to existing post-secular explanatory accounts of the nature of religion-government interactions in Australia and speak to the need to develop more nuanced accounts that distinguish between the policy realm and institutional issues in developing accounts of the relationship between religion and government in Australia.

Author Biography

Luke Beck, Monash University

Luke Beck is a Professor of Constitutional Law at Monash University and is a leading scholar in the field of separation of religion and government and religious freedom under the Australian Constitution. Among other publications, he is the author of the monograph Religious Freedom and the Australian Constitution: Origins and Future (Routledge, 2018).


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How to Cite

Beck, L. (2023). Local Government Prayers in Australia. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 36(1), 28–57. https://doi.org/10.1558/jasr.21309