Mallard assumed the role in November 2017 – and has since removed reference to Jesus in the prayer, which starts parliamentary sessions.
He has said the removal of the reference is an attempt to make the prayer more inclusive for all parliamentarians. An ‘almighty God’ reference remains, but doesn’t necessarily address a Christian God.
The protesters descended on the steps of parliament in Wellington, holding ‘Dishonourable Judas Mallard’ signs.
“He needs a good kick in his pants, and he needs to actually be removed because this is a Christian nation. We don’t share his atheism,” said one protester.
“This is a land of democracy, this is a land of freedom, you know, we want to be a first world country. He took that choice away from us,” added another.
Deputy prime minister Winston Peters, meanwhile, has effectively removed himself from the stance.
“Well, the decision as to what should be changed should be made by parliamentarians and not the speaker – that’s our position, I don’t mind telling you publicly,” told RNZ.
“If you’re going to make a change, let’s have parliament decide – not one person.”