Weekend Wrap for 16 June 2024

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 16 June 2024, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

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At the National Level

More than half of Australians oppose laws allowing faith-based schools to legally sack or refuse to hire teachers on the basis of sexuality and gender identity, as the proposed changes to discrimination and religious discrimination law once again reach a political deadlock. The polling of more than 1,500 Australians, commissioned by the advocacy group Just.Equal Australia, shows:

  • 52% are against an exemption in the Sex Discrimination Act – which allows religious schools to discriminate against people on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status – while 35% support it.
  • 59% of respondents were opposed to government funding going towards religious schools that discriminate against teachers and students on the basis of sexuality and gender identity while 29% were in favour.

(10 Jun 2024)
Read more at The Guardian

The ACT has become the latest Australian jurisdiction to legalise Voluntary Assisted Dying — with the changes taking effect in November 2025. That means that every State and Territory, except the Northern Territory has legalised the practice — but there are some differences across the different jurisdictions: the ACT will allow registered nurses, as well as doctors, to assess cases and has removed the specific 6 or 12 month life expectancy that the other states have included. How should we best regulate VAD — for the patients and for the medical professionals who are part of the process? (12 Jun 2024)
Listen to this discussion at ABC RN

A story came out this week about a music teacher at a Sydney Christian private school - a practising Christian - who was fired in April after an unknown school parent reported to the principal that she was in a same-sex relationship. Said the teacher: “I agree that a religious school should be able to hire Christians. The whole point of a religious school is it’s a place of faith, and you’re teaching faith to the kids as well as all the outcomes. I think that’s a healthy thing. But the thing is, my values do align with the school’s values. I am a person of faith; I have a very strong faith. My sexuality isn’t my value. My sexuality is who I am. That’s not a value, that’s me. [This exemption] should not exist.” The story has placed additional focus on the Albanese government's apparent shelving of its Religious discrimination reforms. (13 Jun 2024)
Read more at The Age

The Greens have accused Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of cowardice over Labor’s approach to religious discrimination reforms after a gay teacher was fired from a Sydney private school while the government waits on the Coalition to change the law. The minor party’s LGBTQ spokesperson, Stephen Bates, said Labor could pass laws to protect people from discrimination by working with the Greens and crossbenchers but had been refusing to show them its proposed legislation. “The Greens have been telling Labor repeatedly for months: let’s work together and pass the Australian Law Reform Commission’s recommendations. The only thing stopping Labor protecting LGBTIQA+ workers in their workplace is their own cowardice. I’m sick of it,” he said. (14 Jun 2024)
Read more at The Age

Around the Country

QLD: The Pentecostal Christian school that made national headlines after issuing a controversial student gender and sexuality contract, Citipointe Christian College, has reached a settlement with parents. The college in Carindale on Brisbane’s southside has issued an “expression of regret” two years after asking parents to sign a new enrolment contract, which stated that homosexuality was “sinful”. The contract, sent to families in January 2022, stipulated that the school would only enrol students on the basis of the gender that corresponded to their biological sex. It also said homosexuality was sinful, like bestiality, incest and paedophilia. (9 Jun 2024)
Read more at ABC News

QLD: The Queensland attorney general, Yvette D’Ath, is pushing to water down draft reforms to the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act, amid concern Labor does not want to be drawn into “a fight with the churches” before the state election. The state government in 2023 committed in principle to implement all 122 recommendations from the Queensland Human Rights Commission’s 14-month review of the act, which has been largely unchanged since passed by the Goss government in 1991. (10 Jun 2024)
Read more at The Guardian

VIC: Melbourne doctors have backed calls to overhaul Victoria’s assisted dying laws, arguing it’s time for the state to be brought into line with others that have implemented more lenient rules since following in the footsteps of the Andrews government. But not everyone agrees, including an emergency physician and the state’s opposition leader, who expressed concern about the erosion of important safeguards in place since June 2019. The renewed debate comes after Cherryl Barassi, the widow of AFL great Ron Barassi, spoke to The Age about not qualifying for help under the current framework. (11 Jun 2024)
Read more at The Age

VIC: The Rationalist Society of Australia has questioned whether state LNP members will be given a conscience vote on the retention of Christian prayers in the state parliament after opposition leader John Pesutto appeared in an Australian Christian Lobby campaign video stating that Liberals and Nationals "support very strongly the retention of the Lord’s Prayer." (13 Jun 2024)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

QLD: The Queensland government will renege on its promise to pass new anti-discrimination laws before the October state election – a move advocates say will leave women fleeing domestic violence, people with disabilities and members the LGBTQ+ community at risk. State cabinet has approved a new plan that involves passing some measures – the parts that are a priority of the union movement – which mimic the federal “respect at work” bill, including placing a positive duty on workplaces to prevent discrimination or harassment. (14 Jun 2024)
Read more at The Guardian

Commentary and Analysis

Greg Sheridan: Churches fight elite efforts to silence Christians
"The Albanese government, like the Morrison government, has abandoned the attempt at a religious discrimination law to protect people of faith. It won’t even present a bill for public consideration. Both sides of politics, when in government, are paralysed by fear of having the debate about religious freedom and how that interacts with other freedoms. Surely the voice referendum demonstrated the danger of not having a big open debate before implementing fundamental change. This political timidity indicates cowardice in the face of rising prejudice, in some cases hatred, against Christianity in the activist class, and the anti-Christian assumptions increasingly permeating the bureaucratic and institutional elites. Former Labor senator Jacinta Collins, now executive director of the National Catholic Education Commission, tells Inquirer: 'In the public policy class, the political elite and the policy bureaucracy, it’s becoming more common not to see Christianity as a social good.'" (8 Jun 2024)
Read more at The Australian

Si Gladman: The Catholic Church’s fight to keep ‘cultural Catholics’ at Census time
"The next Census in 2026 will likely be a watershed moment for our nation, with the proportion of Australians identifying as not religious set to overtake Christians and the total religious affiliation set to fall below half the population. The dramatic decline of religion is, no doubt, the reason leaders of the Catholic Church are experiencing palpitations about proposed changes to the religion question in the Census." (9 Jun 2024)
Read more at Rationale Magazine

Royce Millar: Cherryl Barassi relished life. Now, she says it is time to go
"Cherryl’s health is fading. An old whiplash injury has damaged nerves in her neck, affecting her arms, hands, digestion, speech and ability to write. She does not qualify for help under Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying laws, which were trailblazing seven years ago but which are now conservative by interstate and international standards. ... This month marks the fifth anniversary of the start of Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying laws – legislated in 2017 but taking effect in 2019 – hailed by the Andrews/Allan government as one of its major achievements. But critics, including some medicos and groups like Dying with Dignity, insist the legislation – a compromise package to win sufficient votes to pass the parliament – never went far enough in allowing end of life by choice." (11 Jun 2024)
Read more at The Age

Rodney Croome: We deserve full equality, not compromise
"Just.Equal Australia’s response whenever a new form of discrimination is being proposed in return for removing an old form, is to ask the LGBTQIA+ community whether it accepts the trade off. This takes the decision out of the hands of a coterie of advocates and gives it back to all those who are affected. It is a step towards transparency and democracy." (11 Jun 2024)
Read more at QNews

Nicole Shackleton: The government is drafting anti-hate speech laws. Here are 4 things they should include
"In May, the federal government confirmed it’s working on new laws to prohibit hate speech, sometimes called vilification, based on sex, gender, sexuality, race or religion. Many have welcomed the plan to introduce stronger laws as needed to tackle hate speech against Jewish, Palestinian and Muslim communities in the wake of growing antisemitism and Islamophobia in Australia. Many people agree freedom of speech has its limits and the law has some role to play in prohibiting harmful speech. But what should these laws look like? Here are four things that should be addressed in the legislation." (12 Jun 2024)
Read more at The Conversation

Craig Thompson: The twilight of the secular: Does theology still have a place in the public square?
"Last week saw the official launch of the Wesley Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Policy, an initiative of Melbourne’s Wesley Uniting Church in partnership with other Uniting Church entities. The Centre intends to be “a Christian voice in the public conversation”. That voice has already been heard a couple of times on this platform, but outside the happy pluralism of public broadcasters in liberal societies, theology in the public square tends to be rather less well-received, with responses to such a proposal typically ranging from a bemused raising of eyebrows to the more revelatory “WTF?” The latter is more revelatory because of the confronting juxtaposition of “theology” and “public” in modern liberal spaces — for many, an inadmissible contradiction in terms. Such a coupling contravenes deep-seated cultural assumptions about the exclusion from public discourse of things culturally deemed to be private, religious convictions included." (12 Jun 2024)
Read more at ABC Religion & Ethics

Lucy Carroll: This Sydney school science lab has shut down until there is money to fix it. How did it come to this?
"When NSW public schools were told in April their budgets would be cut and any unspent accumulated funds frozen, it triggered a wave of concern among principals that long-awaited building and classroom upgrades would be abandoned. A few weeks later, millions of dollars sitting in public school bank accounts vanished without any communication. The cuts had come “from necessity”, [NSW Education Department secretary Murat] Dizdar said, to ensure effective and efficient funding of schools to match enrolments and student needs. ... States and territories are locked in negotiations with the federal government to ensure public schools reach 100 per cent of the Schooling Resourcing Standard (SRS) agreed under the Gonski reforms a decade ago. ... Australia has one of the most socially segregated school systems in the OECD, with disadvantaged students concentrated into disadvantaged schools." (13 Jun 2024)
Read more at The Age

The Age - Editorial: Victoria’s assisted dying laws need updating
"When Victoria passed voluntary assisted dying laws in 2017, it was the first state in Australia to allow the sick and dying to leave this world at a time of their own choosing. The laws — debated in Parliament over 100 hours — faced fierce opposition from religious and conservative groups. The final legislation — possibly the most contentious ever passed in Victoria — included 68 safeguards to ensure anyone accessing the laws was doing so voluntarily. Five years after the laws took effect in July 2019, however, all other states and the ACT have since introduced their own versions. And Victoria, once viewed as a trailblazer on the important issue of dying with dignity, has now fallen behind other jurisdictions with such laws, with those advocating for the legislation to be updated arguing some of the measures designed as safeguards are unnecessary barriers." (15 Jun 2024)
Read more at The Age

Events and Campaigns

Join Andrew West and a panel of experts for a special recording of ABC RN's The Religion & Ethics Report, on Thursday June 27, 2024. The focus of the program will be educating a diverse Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Catholic education system is the largest provider of learning outside of Australia's government schools — and enrolments into Catholic schools continue to grow. But within the schools themselves, over 40 per cent of students who attend are, in fact, not Catholic. So why do parents — religious and non-religious — decide to send their children to religious schools? The recording will take place from from 5:45pm to 7pm in the Civic Gallery in PHIVE, Parramatta Square.
Learn more and register at ABC Religion & Ethics

Griffith University researchers are exploring Registered Nurses’ and Nurse Practitioners’ willingness to participate in Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD).
Read more at The Lamp

Support Independent MP Kate Chaney's proposed laws dealing with the “telehealth problem” preventing access to timely voluntary assisted dying across the country. Contact your federal MP and senators here.

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

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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