Hundreds of Christians plan to head to Parliament today to rally against the removal of “Jesus Christ” from the Parliamentary prayer.
Speaker Trevor Mallard made several changes to the prayer when he was appointed, including ditching references to Jesus and the Queen, as well as reading it in te reo Māori.
In January, Christian protesters gathered outside Parliament after Jesus was removed from the prayer. The Speaker reads the prayer aloud at the start of each sitting session, a tradition established in 1854.
Pastor Ross Smith said changes to the prayer were the start of a slippery slope.
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"The start of a dismantling of prayer, God, religion from our nation," he said. "Our values are founded on the Christian faith."
Secular Education Network spokesperson David Hines said changing the prayer and removing references to Jesus had actually made it fairer.
"Christians are not the most important people in New Zealand," he said.
"I'm Christian myself although I have a fairly liberal streak and I would not want my religion to be given favoured treatment."
But Pastor Smith said Mr Mallard's decisions around the prayer are not fair to non-Māori speaking New Zealanders.
"If you're being more inclusive why would you then do it and read the prayer in te reo Māori so that 97 percent of the population don't understand what you're doing," he told The AM Show.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show she thinks Mr Mallard could have consulted the community a little more over the decision, but she's happy with the new prayer.
"I think it's an acknowledgement though that we are a pretty diverse society where people practice a range of religions and now I think we have a prayer that really caters for that," she told The AM Show.
"It was the speaker's call. He probably could have gone out and spent a bit more time on it, but ultimately I think we've kept those parliamentary traditions and that's important."
Mr Mallard says he will not change the prayer again.
Watch the full interview with Ross Smith above.
The AM Show with Duncan Garner, Amanda Gillies and Mark Richardson, weekdays 6-9am on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.