Weekend Wrap for 15 October 2023

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 15 October 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

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At the National Level

Almost half of all parents with children in Australia’s private schools would consider moving them to the public system if it were better resourced, a new survey shows. The Lonergan Research survey, commissioned by the Greens, polled more than 1,000 parents nationally with children enrolled from kindergarten to year 12. Of those with children at private schools, 48% of respondents agreed they would consider moving to a public school if they were better resourced, rising to 61% for parents with multiple children across both systems. Six in 10 (63%) parents agreed public schools were underfunded. (9 Oct 2023)
Read more at The Guardian

Australia’s Christian schools peak body has warned a proposed federal Human Rights Act could threaten religious freedoms, urging the Albanese government to revisit religious discrimination legislation. Christian Schools Australia said Australia’s Human Rights Framework was “lopsided and unbalanced”, and prioritised “non-discrimination above other equally important rights” that had eroded protections for religious freedom. Exemptions to discrimination laws currently allow religious schools to hire teachers from their own faith and fire teachers who come out as gay, become involved in an adulterous relationship or in any other way fail to reflect the institution‘s religious principles. (10 Oct 2023)
Read more at The Australian

The anti-marriage equality campaign leader Lyle Shelton is leading a last-minute push from the no campaign to encourage Christian voters to oppose the voice, claiming it will be used as a “lever for anti-Christian ideology”. He recently said on social media that he had been “seconded” to the no campaign to lead a new push called Christians for Equality. The group’s launch is the latest effort from conservative lobby group Advance, which is behind the main Fair Australia no campaign, to micro-target different segments of the population. (11 Oct 2023)
Read more at The Guardian

Delivering the 2023 Greg Craven Lecture on Ethics and Politics at the Australian Catholic University’s Melbourne campus, Liberal MP Julian Leeser has urged Australia’s Catholics to be a stronger voice in public life. “[The Catholic Church] impacts Australians of every faith and none through its missions—in health, ageing, education, disability and across so many fields," he said. Mr Leeser gave the ACT’s proposed assisted dying laws as an example where the church has a “calling” to keep pressure on governments not to expand their remit and to make strong intellectual cases for the repeal of such laws against human dignity. (13 Oct 2023)
Read more at The Catholic Weekly

Around the Country

NSW: New South Wales Labor government has restated their commitment to bringing in bans against conversion therapy practices. Last week the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) told their supporters that they had successfully had the proposed legislation put "on ice" following the campaign against the laws. A spokesperson for the premier has however denied there is any truth to the claim, promising the government will introduce the legislation before the end of the year. Previously the bill has not been expected before 2024, so it looks like the boast from the ACL has backfired. (8 Oct 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth

ACT: The ACT government has made assurances that no religious-based discrimination will take place in the employment of workers to public schools under the National Student Wellbeing Program (NSWP). Angela Spence, the Executive Group Manager for Services Design and Delivery, said the secular nature of the territory’s public school system meant that religious chaplains could not be employed. (9 Oct 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

WA: Questions are being asked about why the long-promised reforms to Western Australia’s laws regarding gender affirmation are not progressing. In parliament on Tuesday, Greens MLC Dr Brad Pettit asked the government for an update on the long overdue reforms. No timeline for the introduction of the new legislation was given, and there was no response on whether or not legislation had been drafted yet. It’s over a year since the government received a review from the WA Law Reform Commission that recommended a significant overhaul of the state’s Equal Opportunity laws. (11 Oct 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth

QLD: Publicly displaying hate symbols such as Nazi flags will become illegal in Queensland under new laws passed by state parliament. The laws also increase punishment by creating a circumstance of aggravation for people who commit crimes motivated by hatred or contempt based on characteristics like race, gender, religion or sexuality. There will be exceptions so that ancient symbols from religions are not inadvertently banned. (12 Oct 2023)
Read more at ABC News

VIC: A push for reviewing the place of prayers at Frankston City Council’s meetings, arguing that current practice was not inclusive or reflective of the community’s diversity, has failed. The Council will continue to mandate prayers at the opening of its meetings even though the majority of its residents are not religious and despite the council embarking on a new strategy to promote inclusion, social cohesion and respect for diversity. (13 Oct 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Commentary and Analysis

Zena Chamas / Soul Search: These religious leaders say climate change is impacting the future of religion
"The science community has long railed against inaction, but climate change is not just a scientific issue. For many religious people in Australia, it's also a moral one. ... The multi-faith Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) unites religious communities for climate justice. Climate change is such an 'overwhelming and massive' issue that its impact on religion is inevitable, says Tejopala Rawls, an ARRCC organiser. ... According to a 2021 report from Tearfund Australia, a Christian relief and advocacy organisation, 85 per cent of Australia's church leaders want to encourage their church community to take action on climate change. The study, entitled They Shall Inherit The Earth, surveyed a wide range of young and adult Christians from across the country about their attitudes towards climate change and the role of the church in taking action to address it. It shows more than three in five Christians say they're very concerned about climate change. Among younger Christians, 86 per cent say they want action to address the problem." (8 Oct 2023)
Read more at ABC News

Belinda Jones: Albanese Government joins world leaders in condemning attacks on Israel
"The conflict in Israel flared again this week when Hamas militants attacked unarmed civilians at the Supernova music festival and other sites on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Al Jazeera described the surprise attack as ‘the worst civilian massacre in Israeli history’. ... Israel launched indiscriminate retaliatory attacks on the occupied territory of Gaza, which resulted in hundreds of civilian Palestinian casualties. The United Nations issued a statement reiterating that “Indiscriminately killing civilians in the context of hostilities, with no regard for the principles of distinction, precaution and proportionality, is a war crime”. So, by this measure, both Hamas and Israel appear guilty of war crimes. ... In what remains a very complex and long-running dispute deeply rooted in religion, Australia, a secular nation, continues to tread the contentious path of picking a side and supporting Israel. This is despite Israel’s role in intensifying tensions by committing illegal actions and war crimes against the oppressed Palestinians, who also have the right to defend themselves and their lands granted to them by the international community in 1948 when the state of Israel was created." (14 Oct 2023)
Read more at Independent Australia

Events and Campaigns

The inaugural Secularism Australia Conference will be held in Sydney on 2 December 2023.
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.

That's it for another week!

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