Isle of Man votes to keep Christian prayers before House of Keys sittings

Members of the House of Keys (MHKs) on the Isle of Man have rejected an attempt to axe Christian prayers before sittings.

A proposal to replace prayers with a period of silent reflection was voted down.

Instead, MHKs will have the freedom to decide whether or not they wish to join other members in prayer before the meetings begin.


David Ashford, MHK for Douglas North, said the move to ban prayers amounted to “tearing up traditions with five days’ notice” to “appear progressive and modern without thinking it through clearly”.

He explained that, whilst he was not religious himself, scrapping prayers was wrong, saying: “The institutions that we are part of have been around for a long, long time, we are temporary members and custodians of those institutions”.

“And when it comes to changing traditions, or the way the systems operate, such fundamental things as prayers are at the start of a sitting, I believe the public should be involved in any consultation to do that.”

At the last census, 54 per cent of Isle of Man residents reported being of Christian faith.

Public opposition

Peter Murcott, a resident on the island, followed the debate and noted that, unusually, almost every member present at the debate spoke, with many saying they had never had so many members of the public contact them about the proposals.

Many of those getting in touch had expressed their concerns that, if this were to change, other areas of Manx society with a Christian character – including the Manx National Anthem, Remembrance services and the Christian service to mark Tynwald Day – could be also be tampered with.

Mr Murcott explained that MHKs are very reluctant to move against the public when it has made its views clear, and that on this occasion there had been “quite clearly a lot of opposition to the move”.

‘Redefining spiritual identity’

The push to remove prayers had come in a report from the House of Keys Management and Members’ Standards Committee, which also called for the post of chaplain to be discontinued.

The Right Revd Peter Eagles, the island’s bishop, said before the vote that replacing him with a representative from another global faith or an organisation professing no faith, “would be a significant step towards re-defining the spiritual identity of the House”.

He added that, if removed from post, he would “continue to offer the chaplaincy service” in an unofficial capacity to members who asked for spiritual guidance and prayer.