TOPICS: A common prayer

On Tuesday night, the Port Stephens deputy mayor used the C-word. Repeatedly.

In an ultimately successful push for the phrase ‘‘in Jesus’s name’’ to be added to the council’s opening prayer, Councillor Sally Dover said, ‘‘This is a Christian nation, this is a Christian community and we have to be proud of our heritage.’’

Right. We’re not in the business of telling people what they can be proud of.

But what of the claim itself? Are we a Christian nation? Not by law, it would seem.

The Constitution mentions God a couple of times. The oath to office ends ‘‘so help me God’’.

But there’s nothing binding us to Christianity. There is a bit saying the government can’t make laws ‘‘for imposing any religious observance’’.

Of course, Cr Dover didn’t pluck ‘‘Christian nation’’ from thin air. We hear it a lot, from people who cite the many Australians who identify as Christians.

In the 2011 census, for instance, the most common religious affiliations in Port Stephens were Anglican and Catholic, boasting a combined 52.7per cent of the population.

Adding in the other denominations, 63per cent of people in the shire identify as Christian. That’s a clear majority.

But humour us for a moment and imagine yourself in a country where nearly everyone follows the same faith.

In Turkey, according to the CIA World Factbook, 99.8per cent of people are Muslim. If anyone has a mandate to fuse faith and government, it’s the Turks. And yet they don’t.

Their constitution doesn’t promote an official religion, not even Islam. They  leave their government to govern, and religion for the privacy of their homes.

It’s largely down to a guy called Atatürk, the republic’s first president.

Back in the less exotic realm of Port Stephens Council, the new prayer mightn’t seem a big deal.

But we think it is. It comes down to the people who attend council meetings, of all beliefs, being allowed to feel like their representatives are speaking to them.

That would be our prayer.

Do you consider Australia a Christian nation? Why, or why not?

Palais offspring

 AT least 50 people wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the Palais Royale.

That’s the bold conclusion we’ve drawn from a handwritten letter from someone whose signature we can’t quite make out. We think it says ‘‘Josie’’. Apologies if it says ‘‘Jason’’.

‘‘All four of us Hensel kids from Mayfield [sisters Belle, Margaret and brother Joe] met our loved ones at the Palais,’’ says our letter writer.

‘‘There’s now 50 offspring, at last count.’’

Our writer has understandably ‘‘happy memories’’ of the place and tells us trams used take people ‘‘right to the front door’’. 

It sounds like our city’s transport network used to actually make it easier to have a night out.

‘‘Where do young people meet these days?’’ laments our writer, who possibly hasn’t been to MJ Finnegans lately.

‘‘Newcastle should have another Palais.’’

Space business

 IMAGINE doing your, erm, bathroom business propped up against someone else in a space smaller than the inside of a car.

That was the deal for astronauts on missions in the rockets NASA used before they rolled out space shuttles in the 1980s. Things were intimate in the rockets’ re-entry capsules, which eased the astronauts back to Earth with the aid of parachutes.

Prompted by all our talk of shuttles, Charlie Leggat from Belmont North recalled a visit by an Apollo capsule to Newcastle.

The way Mr Leggat remembers it, the capsule was in a Hunter Street car yard as part of a travelling display in the ’70s. 

It was apparently the capsule from an actual Apollo mission, not a replica like the Newcastle shuttles we’ve told you about this week.

He poked his head in for a look.

‘‘You couldn’t stand up in there,’’ Mr Leggat said. ‘‘I remember thinking, ‘Geez, there’s not much room in there’.’’

It sounds like it was quite a coup for Newcastle at the time. Does anyone else remember seeing it?

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