Mayor Karen Williams on prayer breakfast and civic role

Letter: Mayor responds to Prayer breakfast criticism

I write in response to the letter (Redland City Bulletin 17 September 2014) from Stephen Hintz.

I encourage Mr Hintz to speak to me directly before making incorrect assertions about my various roles, responsibilities and privileges as Mayor of Redland City.  I am always happy to discuss residents’ concerns directly and I admit that I am not an avid subscriber to a world where "political correctness" overrides good old fashioned common sense, courtesy and community spirit.

So to correct the statements made -  the Mayoral Prayer Breakfast has been in existence for  about 12 years and has always been a "Prayer" Breakfast that has been supported and funded by the community - for the community. It was not funded by ratepayers. This year the community raised a record $13,400 at a sell-out event which demonstrates the distinct importance of school chaplaincy to our community. I am incredibly proud that our Redland City can come together for such causes.  This unique sense of community is why Redlands is such an amazing place to live. 

To be very clear, the idea of separation of Church and State is not a constitutional requirement in Australia but more an ideology founded in the USA which, ironically, is where the concept of the "Prayer Breakfast" was born and every U.S. President since Eisenhower has participated in this annual event.

Mr Hintz's interpretation of the High Court judgment is also flawed.  The judgement of constitutional law has ruled and considered if Federal Government can directly fund such groups - not on what they deliver.  Though this may have been the desired outcome for those who challenged the concept and value of chaplains in our schools, it was not the point on law that was in question.

One of the privileges of serving this City as Mayor is that I can lend my support to any cause or community group that directly benefits the City and empower the community to work with us to make a collective difference. The Mayoral Prayer Breakfast is just one of the many causes I support. I believe it is critical to the health of our City.  Our young people are our future and I have witnessed personally how chaplaincy can support our young people in need amidst a society where some of those old fashioned values that I referred to earlier no longer flourish.  

We continuously hear of the increase in teenage suicide, substance abuse, disengagement, homelessness and domestic violence. I will do what ever I can to curb those increases, as clearly, the current support and education systems are not meeting the needs of our future generations. I have seen the results of chaplains at work and for every young person who finds their way through dysfunction, our community is the benefactor.  So with the greatest respect to Mr. Hintz's views, though not completely well informed, I will continue to support this cause until someone can show me a superior alternative for supporting our young people.

I appreciate and respect Mr. Hintz's views on religion and the role of chaplaincy are different to mine but my Christian values drive my passion for this City, my tolerance of different views and my desire to do what I can whilst I am caretaker of this City - to make it a better place than when this privileged role was bestowed on me. - Karen Williams, Mayor of Redland City


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