Weekend Wrap for 10 March 2024

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 10 March 2024, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

Videos from the Secularism Australia Conference 2023 are now available. The NSL was a proud co-organiser and co-sponsor of this event.

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At the National Level

The story of Hillsong is a story about the brightest star of international evangelical Christianity. 'Mine is the Kingdom' is a new book that tells the inside story of the global megachurch and its charismatic leader, Brian Houston. It reveals how sexual crimes and scandals destroyed the leadership of the popular Pentecostal church and how it had an extraordinary influence on Australian politics. Walkley Award-winning investigative journalist David Hardaker is the guest in this Radio National piece. (6 Mar 2024)
Listen to the full item at ABC RN

The Secular Association of New South Wales conducted a national YouGov poll February 15–21 from a sample of 1,087. In one question, voters were told that Australia has no formal recognition of separation of government and religion, then asked if they would approve or disapprove of a constitutional amendment to formally separate government and religion in their state. Voters approved of this proposition nationally by 51–20. (8 Mar 2024)
Read more at The Conversation

Around the Country

NSW: During his time marching in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras last week, Premier Chris Minns was asked about the upcoming equality legislation that has yet to be passed in parliament (the Equality Legislation Amendment (LGBTIQA+) Bill 2023 was introduced by independent MP Alex Greenwich in August has still yet to be passed). When pressed for exactly when it could be expected, the premier confirmed a timeline. “Within the week, within a few weeks” he stated. (3 Mar 2023)
Read more at the Star Observer

NSW: "Drag Queen Story Time" won’t go ahead at Cumberland City Council after over 300 angry members of different faith communities rallied together at a heated council meeting on 28 February. Loud and demanding protestors from Catholic, Orthodox, Maronite and other Christian denominations, along with a small contingent of Muslims, flooded the council chambers to express their support for a motion by Cumberland councillor Steve Christou, to prohibit drag queens reading to children in local council facilities. One protestor characterised it as "another win for normal people". (4 Mar 2024)
Read more at the Catholic Weekly

VIC: In a speech to parliament last month, Liberal Party MP and shadow cabinet member Evan Mulholland argued that the reading of Christian prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer, 'is consistent with Victoria’s diverse community'. “I do not oppose people that boycott the Lord’s Prayer, but it shows the intolerance of those who do boycott it that they would seek to force others to partake in some sort of secular replacement,” he said. (4 Mar 2024)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

VIC: More than a third of Victorian councils start their ordinary monthly meetings the same way — with a prayer. While some are inclusive of different religions, the majority of those 29 councils acknowledge a Christian god before diving into their agendas of "rates, roads and rubbish". The other 50 Victorian councils have already done away with this monotheistic rite, reflecting a broader trend in Australia. Ratepayers' organisation Council Watch claims the inclusion of the opening prayer in council meetings is in violation of human rights. (6 Mar 2024)
Read more at ABC News

WA: The first Muslim woman to wear a hijab in federal parliament was forced to cancel a planned iftar dinner featuring her Labor colleagues after pushback from the West Australian Islamic community. Gorman’s planned presentation at the dinner dismayed WA Islamic leaders, who wrote to Payman to vent their frustrations over her party’s response to the Gaza conflict and urged her to cancel it. (6 Mar 2024)
Read more at The Age

ACT: A parliamentary inquiry into the Australian Capital Territory’s proposed voluntary assisted dying laws has been criticised by church leaders for a “serious omission” in making no recommendations for conscientious objection provisions in its majority report. The select committee on the draft bill released its majority report with 27 recommendations to the ACT’s Legislative Assembly on 29 February. The report refers to conscientious objection as a “considerably personal issue related to one’s own morals, ethics, and values” and adds that the committee “does not seek to make any specific recommendations in relation to this matter.” (6 Mar 2024)
Read more at the Catholic Weekly

NSW: Faith leaders have urged the Minns government to accelerate drug reform and relax laws to avoid “needless” and “disastrous” interactions with the criminal justice system as a promised drug summit remains dateless. In a letter to NSW Premier Chris Minns, leaders from the Jewish, Anglican, Catholic, Uniting and Muslim faiths also urged the government to move quicker and be more transparent on its promised drug summit. “As leaders of faith in our communities, we see the impact of drug dependency on individuals and their families,” the letter read. “We also see the impact of criminalisation and stigma and the pain this causes.” (7 Mar 2024)
Read more at The Australian

WA: Criticism of City of Albany councillor Dr Thomas Brough continues to grow a week after comments he made suggesting a link between LGBTIQA+ communities and acceptance of paedophilia. Lobby group Just.Equal say they have submitted a formal complain to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) over the comments. Alongside his role as a councillor Dr Brough works in the field of emergency medicine. (7 Mar 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

NSW: A senior doctor at an organisation closing two Sydney mental health hospitals said he was “appalled” at the decision, accusing the charity of contradicting its Christian ethos. Wesley Mission's Kogarah and Ashfield hospitals will be closed on April 12 after the organisation failed to sell the services to another health provider. Word spread among patients this week that they would have six weeks to find alternate care or arrange to follow their doctors elsewhere. Wesley Mission made its decision public in a statement on its website last night, following the ABC's coverage. (8 Mar 2024)
Read more at ABC News

Commentary and Analysis

Lucy Hamilton: Traditionalism: the belief that could doom us all
"It can be difficult to understand what connects free market devotees, white ethnostate militants, Christian Nationalists, tech bros and mere conservatives in the West. One concept that can help understand their rough alliance is traditionalism. In fact it draws together an international contingent that shares goals and enemies, shaping domestic and foreign policy against the interests of the majority." (5 Mar 2024)
Read more at the AIMN

Susan Carland: Irreconcilable differences? How feminism and religion can overcome their antagonism
"What is paramount in this discussion is to give primacy to the human element of religion, and recognise the sexism we so often witness as a (sadly) typical function of human behaviour. As Rachel Woodlock puts it: 'Religion isn’t inherently oppressive. It’s like saying politics oppresses women. If a bunch of misogynists are in government then you get laws that are bad for women. If a bunch of misogynists claim to speak for God, you get religious justifications for oppressing women. But, when women are in the game — politics, religion, or anything else — things look very different. The real question for believing women isn’t whether religion oppresses women but how can we reclaim the right to speak for ourselves?'" (8 Mar 2024)
Read more at ABC Religion & Ethics

Events and Campaigns

Equality Australia is running a petition asking NSW politicians to ban gay conversion laws.
View the petition at EA's website

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!

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