Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 12 February 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country. Although we typically cover the last seven days' news, we do occasionally reach back a little further if something of importance has been missed.
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 email@example.com.
At the National Level
Hillsong Church has named a married couple to head up its leadership in the wake of founder Brian Houston's resignation as he fights accusations he concealed his late father's child sexual abuse. The appointment follows a year of significant change for Hillsong including the implementation of recommendations from independent reviews of both the governance structure and the process for complaints against credentialed pastors. Houston maintains he did "the right thing" not going to police after his father, Frank Houston, told him in 1999 that he had molested an underage boy three decades earlier. (5 Feb 2023)
Read more at the West Australian
Three of the world’s top Christian leaders have spoken out against laws that criminalise homosexuality. Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, joined the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and Ian Greenshields the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in calling out churches that turn away gay people, and countries that impose laws targeting people over their sexuality. (8 Feb 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth
A second company linked to a fundamentalist Christian sect known as the Exclusive Brethren has been revealed to have won more than $100 million in federal government contracts to supply COVID tests. Dubbed an "extremist cult" by former PM Kevin Rudd, the group has condemned homosexuality, requires women congregants to wear head coverings and has been accused in courts of forbidding contact with family members who choose to leave. (10 Feb 2023)
Read more at The New Daily
Around the Country
WA: Influential Liberal MP Nick Goiran has lashed out at his detractors and declared people of faith were “not going anywhere” from parliament in a fiery email sent to his party faithful after a horror week that saw him lose both his shadow ministerial responsibilities and parliamentary secretary role. Goiran, whose significant power base in the southern suburbs is bolstered by members of evangelical churches, also took special aim at the media for using denigrating terms about people with religious beliefs. (3 Feb 2023)
Read more at WAtoday
VIC: As Victorian parliament returns for 2023, MPs will once again rise to the Lord's Prayer regardless of their religious beliefs. But days appear numbered for the long-standing tradition. The Andrews government made an election promise to workshop a replacement for the Lord's Prayer at the start of this term. The commitment was brokered after crossbencher (and NSL Ambassador) Fiona Patten pitched a motion in 2021 to replace the prayer in the upper house with a moment of silent reflection, a move backed by some religious figures. (6 Feb 2023)
Read more at SBS News
NSW: Government funding for the state’s private and Catholic school students increased at a faster rate than for children enrolled in NSW public schools over the past decade. A new Productivity Commission report found federal and state money going to NSW non-government schools grew by 27.2 per cent over the 10 years to 2021, jumping from $9683 to $12,313 per year. By comparison, funding for public school students increased by 23.9 per cent over the same period from $17,693 to $21,923 a year. (7 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald
TAS: Calls from the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) to cancel a sold-out Drag Storytime at Launceston Library have failed. The ACL claimed that the event was designed with the aim of "indoctrinating children about gender fluidity", calling the event "inappropriate, confusing and harmful to children." Tasmania’s conservative Liberal Deputy Premier Michael Ferguson also said of the event, "I think a lot of people would express concern and it’s important that parental choice be the determining factor here, but I wouldn’t be taking my children." (8 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Star Observer
VIC: Members of Melbourne’s legal profession gathered at St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne on 30 January for the annual Red Mass to mark the official opening of the legal year. Archbishop Peter Comensoli celebrated Mass for about 160 legal representatives, including judges of the High, Federal Circuit and Family courts of Australia and the Supreme, County and Magistrates’ courts of Victoria, as well as King’s Counsel and Senior Counsel, solicitors and barristers from metropolitan and suburban legal firms, and members of parliament and government departments, including Australia’s Attorney-General, the Honourable Mark Dreyfus KC MP. (8 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Archdiocese of Melbourne
VIC: Victorian Liberal MP Joe McCracken has used his inaugural speech to publicly come out as gay, in what is believed to be a first for the state's parliament. (9 Feb 2023)
Read more at SBS News
QLD: Renewed calls have been made for the state government to review how its controversial century-old religious instruction practices are taught in Queensland public schools. Lobby group Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools has been calling for changes to religious instruction for nearly a decade without success. The parents’ association spokeswoman Alison Courtice said the practice in public schools had changed little since 1910 and said parents felt it did not align with a modern Queensland. (9 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Courier Mail
NSW: Conversion practices are based on the idea that a person's orientation or gender identity can be changed, suppressed or eradicated through practices ranging from psychiatric treatments to spiritual intervention. These practices have been outlawed in Queensland, Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory. But they are still legal in New South Wales. Independent MP Alex Greenwich plans to introduce an omnibus Equality Bill, including a prohibition on conversion practices. (10 Feb 2023)
Read more at ABC News
NSW: State Labor leader Chris Minns has promised to ban gay conversion therapy if elected next month, after kingmaker independent Alex Greenwich said he would use his influence to bring NSW in line with rules against the practice in other states. On Friday, Greenwich, who will be critical if either major party needs to form a minority government, announced he would make a prohibition on gay conversion therapy a priority in the next parliament. Premier Dominic Perrottet said he had received information from Greenwich outlining his proposed Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill 2023 but declined to say if he would support it. (11 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald
NSW: Both NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Opposition Leader Chris Minns will address town hall-style meeting later in February, signalling the rise of faith-based issues as political factors. Murray Norman, Better Balanced Futures CEO, said the organisation was delighted to be working in partnership with faith communities and interfaith partners to be able to host the Premier and the alternative Premier at the two exclusive town hall-style meetings to hear from them about issues that matter to people of faith, including religious education. (11 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Catholic Weekly
Commentary and Analysis
Sonia Hickey: What is the Role of the New South Wales Education Standards Authority?
"Controversial New South Wales Opus Dei schools are now under investigation by the New South Wales Education Standards Authority (NESA) after recent media coverage which raised concerns about the school curriculum. A story, which recently aired on ABC’s 4 Corners, told the stories of alumni from both Redfield College (for boys) and Tangara School for Girls, both of which are run by the small but powerful Catholic organisation, known as Opus Dei. Allegations levelled at Tangarra school include that pages of the NSW curriculum were ripped out of textbooks, homophobia is rife, and expressing sexuality in any way, shape or form is strongly discouraged. Some of the former students say that their time at the school left them with psychological damage. The school is now under investigation by the New South Wales Education Standards Authority (or NESA)." (3 Feb 2023)
Read more at Sydney Criminal Lawyers
Des Cahill: Cardinal George Pell’s sendoff.
"The Australian Catholic Church now has the task of constructing a church with totally revamped and contemporary sacramental liturgies, one that incorporates Indigenous and Asian spiritualities. It is a monumental task, beyond the capabilities and imaginations of Big George’s many acolyte archbishops and bishops in charge across the Australian continent. The victims of clerical sexual abuse and their families will continue to tie their protest ribbons to the gates of St Mary’s. The church will continue to remove them. The hurt will continue, just as the adulation and whitewashing of George Pell’s life will continue." (4 Feb 2023)
Read more at The Saturday Paper
Mark Buckley: Was Pell a decent man? No.
"George Pell's funeral in Sydney has shown clearly the divisions within the Australian community at large, the Catholic Church itself, and the conservative side of politics. It all boils down to whether or not Pell was a decent human being. Aside from the well-known path from obscurity to eminence, there is the ongoing debate as to whether he was an innocent victim of 'the mob', pursued unfairly to his death, or was he, as Tony Abbott recently stated, 'a saint for our times'?" (6 Feb 2023)
Read more at the AIMN
Andrew Collins: George Pell's passing cannot cleanse the Catholic Church.
"I don’t see anyone as either good or bad. I see it as a sliding scale that changes. There is always good in a person and always some bad. I admired Pell for his intellect, wit and tenacity. I didn’t always agree with him, but I admired his passion and willingness to stick to what he believed. I didn’t like the decisions he made when it came to child sexual abuse. The Royal Commission was a search for the truth and I accept its findings. It found that Pell knew about abuses, yet did nothing — all to protect the reputation of the Catholic Church." (7 Feb 2023)
Read more at Independent Australia
Ashleigh Raper: 'I was wrong': NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says Catholic faith did play a role in gambling reform.
"Dominic Perrottet has been doing some soul-searching. Over the past few days, the premier has been reflecting on how his Catholic faith influences his policy decisions during a bruising debate on gambling reforms. He now says he was wrong to say that it does not have an impact on how he forms his views." (7 Feb 2023)
Read more at ABC News
ABC's Soul Search: Queer faith and theology at World Pride.
"It has to be said a lot of our public conversation about religion and sexuality assumes that faith and queerness are separate – even antagonistic aspects of human life. But where does that leave queer people of faith? Queer theology has been an active field of study for decades, but may not be well known outside divinity schools, and is only just now being taught formally in Australia." (9 Feb 2023)
Listen to the full episode at ABC Radio National
Sonia Hickey: Peter Hollingworth to Face Secret Hearing for Allegedly Enabling Child Sexual Abuse.
"Former Governor General Peter Hollingworth is facing an internal tribunal hearing held behind closed doors within the Anglican Church – to determine whether he should be defrocked over his alleged role in covering up child sexual abuse within the church. Many complaints have been levelled at Hollingworth over his handling of child sexual abuse within the institution while he was the Archbishop of Brisbane – a role he held for more than a decade prior to becoming Governor General of Australia in 2001. The controversy surrounding the decisions he made about child sexual abuse reports while Archbishop and commentary around these decisions which plagued his reign as Governor General. leading to his resignation in 2003." (10 Feb 2023)
Read more at Sydney Criminal Lawyers
Mike Seccombe: The painful legacy of Peter Hollingworth.
"Hollingworth's legacy is still being determined. Over four days this week, the church's professional standards body considered the case to have him defrocked. We know little about it, because it was held in secret. Among the matters before it – the only one we know anything about – was [Beth] Heinrich’s case. 'It's probably the longest-running case of child abuse in the world, and possibly one of the most expensive,' says Professor Chris Goddard, a University of South Australia academic. 'And she’s still not got resolution.'" (11 Feb 2023)
Read more at The Saturday Paper
Caitlin Mahar: Pious, prolonged or painless: the remarkable reconception of what it means to die well.
"At the heart of the story of euthanasia is a remarkable reconception of what it means to die well in the west. Today, regardless of which side of the euthanasia debate we line up on, for most of us what we might call a good death is likely to involve dying swiftly and painlessly. But this is a relatively recent conception of what it means to die well. Until at least the middle of the 19th century, most Australians would have considered a swift or sudden death a bad death because it allowed no time for spiritual preparation and repentance." (11 Feb 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
Events and Campaigns
The ACT government is running a public consultation project seeking views on how voluntary assisted dying will work in the ACT. Sign up to join the YourSay panel by 14 February 2023.
Read more at the YourSay Conversations website
The next Rationalist Society of Australia webinar is on the "Growing inequality and segregation in our education system" and is taking place on 22 February 2023 at 7:30pm.
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia
The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has released a Consultation Paper and sought a response from the general public about proposed new anti-discrimination rules that will make it illegal for religious schools to expel students or sack staff "on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status, or pregnancy in schools". Submissions close 24 February 2023.
Read more (and make a submission) at the ALRC
The Joint Standing Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme are holding an inquiry into the operations of the National Redress Scheme. Written submissions are due by Monday 27 February 2023.
Read more at the Australian Parliament House website
Reason Australia have started a new petition to remove prayers from Victorian state parliament.
Read and sign the petition at the Reason Australia website
Have you faced discrimination at a religious school or organisation? Equality Australia wants to know!
Humanists Australia have launched a Change.org petition calling for full separation of church and state in Australia. View and sign here.
The Australian Education Union is running a campaign calling for “every school, every child” to receive fair education funding. Support the campaign here.
Funding for public schools has been cut in the latest budget but funding for school chaplains has been assured. A change.org petition is currently calling on the federal government to fund youth workers rather faith-based chaplains in our public schools.
The Human Rights for NSW alliance has launched a campaign calling for NSW to pass a Human Rights Act.