Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 10 September 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.
The NSL is a proud sponsor of the first Secularism Australia Conference, to be held on 2nd December 2023 in Sydney. Visit the conference website to find out more about the speakers and get your tickets at an early-bird rate until 7th October!
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At the National Level
Religious discrimination against youth workers in Australian public schools is a systemic feature of the operation of the new National Student Wellbeing Program (NSWP), according to a new report from the Rationalist Society of Australia. The report – titled Religious discrimination in the recruitment of National Student Wellbeing Program (NSWP) workers in Australian public schools – compiles the selection criteria used to hire NSWP workers by each of the organisations authorised to supply NSWP workers to public schools in every state and territory. (5 Sep 2023)
Read more and download the report at the Rationalist Society of Australia
Despite harrowing stories from women about having to “shop around” for abortion care even when their pregnancies are unviable, the federal government will not make providing abortion services a condition tied to millions of dollars in funding it allocates to major public hospitals. An investigation by Guardian Australia detailed the still widespread practice of Catholic hospitals across Australia using the cover of religion to opt out of providing reproductive care, with devastating consequences. (6 Sep 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
Around the Country
VIC: A fresh round of factional fighting has broken out in the Victorian Liberal Party, triggered by the expulsion of a leading conservative powerbroker and John Pesutto’s decision to quickly fill a vacancy in the leadership team. Conservative forces are threatening to retaliate in state and federal preselection battles and in upcoming ballots for party positions. The latest factional battle began last week when the party’s decision-making body voted to expel conservative powerbroker Ivan Stratov, who was an active recruiter of religious conservatives. Conservative forces are now threatening to use their numbers to back like-minded candidates in upcoming ballots for the party’s president. (1 Sep 2023)
Read more at The Age
ACT: ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith says the Labor-Greens government’s decision to forcibly acquire Calvary Hospital was “faith agnostic” while conceding that some procedures had not been available at the formerly Catholic-run facility for “obvious reasons”. Ms Stephen-Smith told a senate inquiry probing the acquisition the ACT government had begun drafting legislation to take over the Canberra hospital in March, two months before the controversial acquisition was announced. Ms Stephen-Smith also responded to accusations from religious leaders that the takeover was motivated by faith-based reasons: “I would note that the only people discussing these straw man issues such as abortion and voluntary assisted dying have been those opposed to the acquisition,” she said. “The government has never made such claims or links.” (5 Sep 2023)
Read more at The Australian
WA: A WA based facility that allegedly conducted exorcisms and LGBTQ conversion practices only formally applied for $4m worth of Commonwealth funding after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the grant was being awarded. Bureaucrats were left racing around to get information to create an application of the funding after the PM made an announcement in the leadup to the 2019 federal election. The Esther Foundation, a Perth-based residential facility claimed to provide support for women and girls experiencing mental health concerns and substance abuse challenges. The organisation operated for almost three decades with significant state and federal government support, but clients later shared stories emotional and psychological abuse, coercive and extreme religious practices, LGBTQA+ suppression and conversion practices, culturally harmful practices, medical complaints, family alienation, physical restraints and assaults, and sexual assault. (6 Sep 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
Commentary and Analysis
Amy Lawton: Religious leaders without religion: How humanist, atheist and spiritual-but-not-religious chaplains tend to patients’ needs
"...a common assumption is that chaplains themselves must be grounded in a religious tradition. After all, how can you be a religious leader without religion? In reality, a growing number of chaplains are nonreligious: people who identify as atheist, agnostic, humanist or “spiritual but not religious.” I am a sociologist and research manager at Brandeis University’s Chaplaincy Innovation Lab, where our team researches and supports chaplains of all faiths, including those from nonreligious backgrounds. Our current research has focused on learning from 21 nonreligious chaplains about their experiences." (7 Sep 2023)
Read more at The Conversation
Neil Foster: Religion and Private Law
"I am presenting some brief comments on the background of private law, especially the law of torts, in the doctrines of Christianity, for a seminar organised by the law student association at my University. The paper can be downloaded here." (8 Sep 2023)
Read more at Law and Religion Australia
Events and Campaigns
The inaugural Secularism Australia Conference will be held in Sydney on 2 December 2023. Early-bird tickets are on sale until 7 October.
Learn more at the Secularism Australia website
Equality Australia are running a petition calling on the Federal Government and all remaining states and territories to remove unnecessary legal carve-outs for religious schools and organisations and ensure laws protect everyone equally.
Read and sign the petition at Equality Australia
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.