Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 16 April 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.
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
The Federal Government last week advertised for a specialist LGBTIQA+ advisor at the Australian Human Rights Commission. The appointment comes after Just.Equal Australia had repeatedly criticised the government for failing to appoint a dedicated LGBTIQA+ Human Rights Commissioner, as well as neglecting funding for a specialist adviser for almost a year. Spokesperson for Just.Equal, Brian Greig, has welcomed news that the position has been created, but said it was no substitute for a full-time Commissioner. He repeated his call for the Albanese Government to address this. (13 Apr 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth
In Queensland and NSW, it's mandatory for principals at public schools to put aside up to an hour of class time a week for volunteers from religious institutions to deliver religious instruction classes. Providers of the programs say the lessons are essential for students' religious identities. Critics say they're 'government-sanctioned indoctrination'. ABC's Life Matters talks to Alison Courtice, spokesperson for QLD Parents for Secular State Schools; Murray Norman, CEO of Better Balance Futures; and Jack Galvin Waight, former high school teacher, organiser for the NSW Teacher's Federation and author of a new report, 'Teaching Not Preaching: Making Our Public Schools Secular'. (13 Apr 2023)
Listen to the full program at ABC Radio National
Following the allegations of money laundering made against megachurch Hillsong, more than 22,000 people have signed a change.org petition calling for the tax-free status of Australian churches to be revoked. The petition also says that it’s "time to limit the religious influence of churches in Australian politics and society." (13 Apr 2023)
Read more at the Courier Mail
The acting prime minister, Richard Marles, says students’ leadership qualities shouldn’t be tied to their sexuality as a major church group calls for the right to exclude gay pupils from roles like school captain. In a submission to a review of anti-discrimination laws, the Presbyterian Church of Australia argued for the right to exclude students from leadership positions if they were in a same-sex relationship or having pre-marital sex. “They would not be able to give appropriate Christian leadership in a Christian school which requires modelling Christian living,” the church said in its submission. (14 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
Around the Country
TAS: Referencing a recent British Medical Journal article, "Caring for young people with gender dysphoria", the Australian Christian Lobby have claimed that "to legislate for affirmation therapy, as the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute (TLRI) recommends, would be harmful in the extreme to Tasmanians and especially sex/gender confused children." (11 Apr 2023)
Read more at the ACL
QLD: The release of a video in which Religious Instruction (RI) missionaries describe public schools as "mission fields" for "harvesting" children has revealed for parents the true nature of the RI program, a secular advocate has told ABC radio. Speaking on the Life Matters program, Alison Courtice, of the Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools, said the comments in the video, which gained widespread media attention last month, had "horrified" parents across Queensland. While RI providers have tried to distance themselves from the Citipointe Church missionaries’ comments in the video, Ms Courtice said such language was commonly found in materials published by groups delivering RI. (13 Apr 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia
VIC: Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday slammed the targeting of drag events in Melbourne by far-right groups and warned that the “worst of American politics is creeping into our state”. The Premier was responding to questions from media persons about a Melbourne cafe being forced to cancel an Easter crafts and games event for children hosted by drag queens after online threats from far-right groups. “They are trying to disrupt events that are peaceful, lawful. They’re not compulsory, if you don’t want to go, don’t go,” said Premier Andrews, adding “Equality is not negotiable in this state.” (13 Apr 2023)
Read more at the Star Observer
ACT: The architect of the world’s first right-to-die law, former Northern Territory chief minister Marshall Perron, is urging the ACT to allow under-18s and non-terminal patients access to voluntary assisted dying when it becomes the seventh Australian jurisdiction to embrace the measure. Mr Perron hopes the ACT’s appetite for social change will unleash the next wave of VAD reform even though the rollout through the states is not complete. (14 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Australian
Commentary and Analysis
Estelle Asmodelle: Anti-trans hate: The awful virus infecting Australia.
"On 13 October 1987, I became the first legal transgender person in Australia after changing the name on my NSW birth certificate from a male to a female name. I was also the first transgender person to be given a passport with the new sex designation. This all happened after a long personal campaign to gain equal rights. I wasn't a member of a group or political organisation member but just one person on a mission." (5 Apr 2023)
Read more at Independent Australia
David Estcourt: ‘Is all in order there?’: The question Malka Leifer couldn’t overcome.
"Malka Leifer absorbed the verdict as she had the entire trial: her expression unmoving, looking straight ahead, her face not betraying any distress at being found guilty of raping two of her students. Her accusers, too, three sisters sitting in the back corner of the court, were still as the jury convicted Leifer of 18 of 27 charges heard at the County Court of Victoria over the past two months. ... To understand Leifer’s story and the bravery of the three sisters — Nehama Meyer, known as Nicole, Hadassa (Dassi) Erlich and Elisheva (Elly) Sapper — who broke from their community to report the abuse, it’s important to understand the congregation which formed the focal point of this international scandal." (7 Apr 2023)
Read more at WA Today
Ross Gittins: In politics and the economy, Christianity is increasingly suspect.
"According to the 2021 census, the proportion of people identifying as Christian has fallen from 61 per cent to 44 per cent in a decade, with those reporting 'no religion' rising from 22 per cent to 39 per cent. So, it’s no exaggeration to say we now live in a post-Christian society. Nor that a growing number of people have a low opinion of those who profess to be Christians. They’ve said or done something bad – well, what would you expect Actually, that’s a good question: what do we expect of Christians? How differently would a professing prime minister behave to one who kept their religious opinions to themselves?" (10 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Age
Neil Foster: Liability of a bishop for abuse by clergy - on appeal.
"Can a bishop be held personally liable for child sexual abuse committed by a member of the clergy under their authority? The Victorian Court of Appeal has recently held that they can, in its decision in Bird v DP (a pseudonym)  VSCA 66 (3 April 2023) ('the Bird appeal decision'). That decision upheld an earlier trial decision to the same effect in DP (a pseudonym) v Bird  VSC 850 (22 December 2021), which I commented on previously here. In that earlier comment I suggested that there were reasons to conclude that the trial judge was wrong. In this comment I will be briefly noting why I continue to hold that view, and hence conclude that the Victorian Court of Appeal is also wrong, on the specific question of what is known as 'vicarious liability'." (11 Apr 2023)
Read more at Law and Religion Australia
Dennis Altman: There’s a growing gap between countries advancing LGBTQ+ rights, and those going backwards.
"Seven years ago, I co-wrote a book with Jonathan Symons called Queer Wars. Back then, we suggested there was a growing gap between countries in which sexual and gender diversity was becoming more acceptable, and those where repression was increasing. Sadly, that analysis seems even more relevant today." (11 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Conversation
Paul Taylor: Chart a better course? Guest Post on an Australian Human Rights Charter (Part 2).
"The Position Paper produced by the AHRC, setting out its proposals for a federal charter, is a valuable resource, providing detailed coverage across a broad range of human rights issues. It is informational and constructive. It is also makes for heartening reading because of the many positive results achieved in the experience of different charters here and overseas, for so many people. However, the issue that has now become central, as this inquiry proceeds, is not whether a charter is merely capable of yielding benefits. A charter, of necessity, must be dependable both in delivering the right outcomes, and in avoiding errant ones. I am far from convinced that existing ACT, Victoria and Queensland charters, and the one now proposed at federal level, which in many respects is similar but replete with home-spun oddities, meets that criterion – even though some good may have come out of charters so far." (14 Apr 2023)
Read more at Law and Religion Australia
Events and Campaigns
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.
View the petition at change.org
Adelaide residents can email the city council expressing their support for the proposed removal of prayers from council meetings. Get contact details from our new page on current opportunities for action.
Catch up on the RSA's latest webinar, featuring Dr Jennifer Bleazby speaking about the teaching of creationism being commonplace within religious instruction programs in Australian public schools.
Watch the webinar at the RSA's website
News Corp have begun a new podcast series, "Faith on Trial", investigating various stories relating to Hillsong, including alleged exploitation of staff, questionable treatment of Hillsong college students, and the trial of Brian Houston.
Listen to the podcast here
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.