Weekend Wrap for 10 December 2023

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 10 December 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

If you're not already following us on social media, please consider dropping by our pages on Twitter, Facebook and now Mastodon!

Do you know someone who might be interested in the stories in our Wrap mailouts? Use the "Forward this email to a friend" link at the bottom of the email.

Do you have any news items, campaigns, petitions, webinars or other event notices that could be added to our weekly Wrap? Let us know at wrap@nsl.org.au.

At the National Level

In a draft report released last week, the Productivity Commission called for the removal of the concept of ‘Basic Religious Charities’ (BRCs) in order to enhance “public transparency and accountability” in the charities system. The report said that the “unjustified reporting exemptions” to governance and reporting standards created “a gap” in the regulatory framework. Removing the exemptions would mean such religious charities would, just like other charities, be required to provide financial information to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). (5 Dec 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Research conducted by the Australia Institute reveals that 56 per cent of people support their state or territory hiring pastoral support workers directly – rather than through a third-party agency – to ensure applicants are not subject to conditions that may be imposed by agencies, including religious credentials. Just 16 per cent of Australians oppose the policy position, while 28 per cent don’t know or are unsure. The findings were announced at the Secularism Australia Conference in Sydney on Saturday. (6 Dec 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

LGBTQI advocates have welcomed reports that the Australian government is considering adding gender affirming surgeries to the Medicare rebate list. The federal government was considering adding 21 items for Medicare rebate, including gender affirming surgeries like chest surgery and genital reconfiguration. In 2021, a petition to the Federal Parliament calling for gender affirming surgeries to be listed as Medicare items had garnered over 150,000 signatures. (7 Dec 2023)
Read more at The Star Observer

Around the Country

TAS: The head of Catholic education in Tasmania has criticised consent education as stipulated in the national curriculum, saying it includes "highly sensitive, amoral and potentially harmful information". A spokesperson for the federal education department said it aimed "to strengthen and lift expectations for the delivery of consent and respectful relationships education from Foundation to Year 10 in age-appropriate ways". Founder of Teach Us Consent, Chanel Contos, said consent education should not be made a political or religious issue, and that teaching respectful relationships needed a whole-of-community approach. (4 Dec 2023)
Read more at ABC News

ACT: The ACT Government faces renewed pressure over its forced takeover of Calvary Public Hospital Bruce, with Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith accused of “bad faith” negotiations in the lead-up to the compulsory acquisition. Source: The Australian. Based on Freedom of Information documents and correspondence tabled in the territory’s Legislative Assembly, the ACT Opposition claims Ms Stephen-Smith did not warn Calvary that failure to reach agreement last year during negotiations over sharing land on the Calvary site could lead to a government takeover. The ACT Government announced in May that it would compulsorily acquire Calvary, prompting a storm of protest from the Church and Coalition MPs about the possible precedent for forced takeovers of religious-run government services. (4 Dec 2023)
Read more at CathNews

QLD: A US man has denied wrongdoing after he was accused of making threats in ideological messages to Queensland terrorists who murdered two police officers and an innocent bystander. The FBI arrested Donald Day in the US state of Arizona in connection with last year’s religiously motivated terrorist attack on a remote Queensland property in Wieambilla. Gareth, Nathaniel and Stacey Train killed two police officers and a neighbour in the attack, in December 2022, before being shot dead by police. (7 Dec 2023)
Watch this story at The Age

VIC: Just days after World AIDS Day, CatholicCare Victoria has shut down its HIV/AIDS Ministry. The announcement follows the retirement of coordinator Marg Hayes who led the service for over two decades. The organisation’s HIV/AIDS Ministry provided “non-judgemental” services to “anyone living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, regardless of religious belief or background.” Another crucial work undertaken by the Ministry was to provide community education about HIV/AIDS in settings like schools and church parishes. (9 Dec 2023)
Read more at The Star Observer

NSW: In an interview on 2GB Radio on 3 December, Steve Marton of Sydney Atheists said that most nominally religious people do not agree with the dictates of religious leaders on a number of issues, including same-sex marriage and voluntary assisted dying. Last month, the Minns government rejected Mr Marton’s application to represent non-religious and ex-religious people on the new advisory council, and instead appointed 19 religious clerics, with the overwhelming majority being men. (9 Dec 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Commentary and Analysis

Neil Foster: Voluntary assisted dying laws partly invalid
"An important decision handed down recently in the Federal Court of Australia rules that part of Victoria’s euthanasia law (the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic)(“VADA 2017”)) is invalid, as it authorises assistance with suicide, which is prohibited by Federal law. The decision, of Abrahams J as a single judge in the Federal Court, is Carr v Attorney-General (Cth) [2023] FCA 1500 (30 November 2023). The implication is that similar provisions of other State and Territory laws are also invalid. The relevant federal law, sections 474.29A and 474.29B of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, contained in the Schedule to the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), in broad terms, makes it an offence to assist or encourage someone to commit suicide through use of a 'carriage service', most commonly by use of a telephone (either a voice call or a text message), email, or some internet service." (3 Dec 2023)
Read more at Law & Religion Australia

Chrys Stevenson: Christian Dominionism: Follow the Money
"I believe urgent action needs to be taken to head off the Americanisation of Australian politics at the pass. I have spent 12 years following Christian dominionism and Christian nationalism, and the last 3 months undertaking intensive research into the libertarian networks behind these movements. Issues like prayers in parliament and chaplains in schools and the military are important. I don’t want to take away from the people putting their efforts into these issues. But the matches to light these ‘fires’ are being supplied by foreign networks. If those networks are not challenged we’ll be playing “whack-a-mole” with church/state separation until the second coming of Christ." (5 Dec 2023)
Read more at Gladly, the Cross-eyed Bear

Tom McIlroy: Tax deduction curbs ‘an attack on religious freedom’
"Labor could face a backlash from religious voters if it curbs tax deductions for donations to faith-based institutions, and Catholic and Jewish leaders say such a move would be unfair and unwarranted. A draft report by the Productivity Commission has recommended an overhaul of deductible gift recipient status – the rules that govern which charitable donations attract a taxpayer-funded benefit. The commission has proposed that activities to advance religion be excluded from the deduction rules, along with school building funds and some childcare and aged care organisations." (6 Dec 2023)
Read more at the Financial Review

ABC's God Forbid: What have we got right and wrong in our schooling system?
"Education is essential in today’s fast knowledge economy – but for generations Australian schools prided themselves on building good citizens, not just workers. It was part of the social contract – the Aussie fair go. The idea that everyone – regardless of wealth – should be able to access decent public or low fee Catholic schooling. Yet today, that social mix has frayed – schools cluster the poor with the poor, and the rich with the rich. The God Forbid panel won't provide quick fixes, but they do have hard won political experience on the subject. And one thing everyone agrees on -- the schools debate in Australia has always been political." (8 Dec 2023)
Listen to the full episode at the ABC

Monica Doumit: A gender inquiry now might prevent a Royal Commission later
"I am certain that in my lifetime, we will see a royal commission into the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones on children. There is no question about that. But I do question which side of that commission our federal and state governments and individual members of parliament will find themselves on, when the reckoning finally comes? From the look of what has happened in recent weeks, it seems that many of our federal senators, as well as the Victorian Government, will find themselves siding with ideology over child safety." (8 Dec 2023)
Read more at The Catholic Weekly

Events and Campaigns

Residents of NSW, there is a petition running that calls on the state parliament to run scripture (SRE) and ethics (SEE) lessons outside class time in NSW public schools.
View the petition at the NSW Parliament House website

The Australia Institute are calling on federal parliament to pass truth in political advertising laws that are nationally consistent, constitutional and uphold freedom of speech.
View the petition at The Australia Institute

The Human Rights Law Centre are running a website for those who want to support an Australian Charter of Human Rights & Freedoms.
Visit the Charter of Rights website here

A change.org petition has been started, calling for churches to lose their tax-free status and for "the religious influence of churches in Australian politics and society" to be limited. It's currently up to 30,000 signatures.
View the petition at change.org

Reason Australia are encouraging Victorians to email the state government asking to remove prayers from Victorian state parliament.
Read more at the Reason Australia website

Have you faced discrimination at a religious school or organisation? Equality Australia wants to know!

The Australian Education Union is running a campaign calling for “every school, every child” to receive fair education funding. Support the campaign here.

The Human Rights for NSW alliance has launched a campaign calling for NSW to pass a Human Rights Act.

That's it for another week!

Until next time, please follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Mastodon.

And if you are able, please consider making a small monthly contribution to the NSL to help us raise the secular profile in Australia. Every dollar helps!