Weekend Wrap for 16 October 2022

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 16 October 2022, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

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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 wrap@nsl.org.au.

At the National Level

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the Australian Christian Lobby are among 20 groups identified as Australian far-right hate and extremism groups in a new report by a global anti-hate think tank. The Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE) is an international group created by veterans of the civil rights group Southern Poverty Law Center, which seeks to identify and chronicle transnational hate groups. In early October, the group published the report “Far-right Hate and Extremist Groups“, which includes research on the major groups operating in Australia, their history and beliefs. (7 Oct 2022)
Read more at Crikey

National organisation Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) has announced a new name to emphasise their inclusive practices. PFLAG is now PFLAG+ Australia. The new name aligns with the group’s mission to support all family members and loved ones of the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as LGBTQIA+ folks directly. (9 Oct 2022)
Read more at Out in Perth

West Australian government Minister for Youth Dave Kelly has called out religious organisations for wanting to maintain a legal right to discriminate for numerous reasons while also criticising the actions of the Essendon Football Club in the Andrew Thorburn saga. In an interview on ABC Perth radio, Kelly said an irony of the debate was that religious organisations expected to maintain special exceptions under equal opportunity laws that allow them to discriminate widely in their employment practices. (12 Oct 2022)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Faith Workers' Alliance chief executive Chris Bedding has called for religious leaders across all denominations to take mental health training after a senior bishop told a West Australian priest to "move on" following his attempt to take his own life. Mr Bedding claimed that Father Tan's was not an isolated case and that the alleged mistreatment of workers was a widespread issue across all religious denominations. "The misuse of power is widespread in faith organisations and we see it when people exercise absolute power without transparency or accountability," Mr Bedding said. (13 Oct 2022)
Read more at ABC News

Around the Country

VIC: The Victorian Pride Lobby has launched a non-partisan campaign, ‘It Takes More’, with a view to support, mentor and focus attention on out LGBTQI candidates. The ultimate aim is to get more out LGBTQI MPs elected in the forthcoming elections in Victoria in November 2022, given that despite its progressive laws, Victoria has one of the lowest representation of out MPs in the state Parliament. (7 Oct 2022)
Read more at the Star Observer

VIC: Protesters clashed with police in Melbourne's city last weekend as people rallied in the streets to promote opposing messages about abortion rights. Pro-choice protesters marched a course through the CBD that was planned to intersect with an anti-abortion march taking place at the same time. Secretary of the Reason Party, Emma Sinclair, said anti-abortion sentiment has grown after the overturning of the Roe v Wade decision by the United States Supreme Court. (9 Oct 2022)
Read more at ABC News

NSW: One Nation MP Mark Latham (author of the controversial “Parental Rights” bill that sought to prohibit teachers from discussing gender fluidity in schools and prevent schools from supporting transgender students without parental consent) is planning to quit the upper house to run again at the top of the ticket in the March election, in a bid to boost the number of MPs the party has in the Legislative Council. Latham, who is half-way through his eight-year term, wants to recontest a new position in the upper house in order to “renew his mandate”. (12 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Age

QLD: Queensland police are undergoing training for its officers to better support LGBTQI victims. The training comes close on the heels of Queensland Police revealing that it was working with Brisbane Pride to issue an apology for its past treatment of the LGBTQI community. (13 Oct 2022)
Read more at the Star Observer

VIC: Renee Spencer, whose daughter cut off contact after joining the Melbourne religious sect known as the Jesus Christians, is taking legal action against the sect’s leader, David McKay, accusing him of defamation. Spencer claims that McKay engaged in a campaign via videos posted on YouTube to turn her daughter against her, referring to her as a “devil worshipper” and a person who has “conspired with neo-Nazis and attempted murderers to terrorise and persecute a Christian group”. (15 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Age

Commentary and Analysis

Adam Rorris and Maurie Mulheron – Maurie Mulheron speaks with economist Adam Rorris on his research into the public funding of schools and the Schooling Resource Standard.
"The federal and NSW governments delivered $120 million in overfunding to 130 independent [and largely religious] schools in NSW in 2020 alone. Almost 40 per cent of all independent schools examined as part of this study in NSW in 2020 received more than 100 per cent of their designated SRS level of funding. This is while the entire public school system sits more than 10 per cent below its minimum SRS funding levels since the adoption of the Gonski needs-based funding model in 2013." (26 Sep 2022)
Listen at the Centre for Public Education Research

Elenie Poulos – Andrew Thorburn’s Essendon exit wasn’t a religious freedom failure – it was a recruitment failure.
"The core issue (and there are a number) around the appointment of Andrew Thorburn as CEO of the Essendon Football Club is not religious freedom. It is about leadership and organisational values. As many commentators and engaged observers have already pointed out, Thorburn’s appointment appears to have been a failure of the recruitment process. He found himself leading two organisations with values that clashed, one just happened to be a religious organisation." (8 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Guardian

Alan AustinDropkick me, Jesus, through the goalposts of life.
"Due to CEO Andrew Thorburn's resignation after one day, the turmoil at Essendon Football Club may turn out to be a game-saver. This will cause short-term angst inside the football club, in Victoria’s sporting community generally, within the Christian community and, particularly, Thorburn’s church, City on a Hill. But if the destructive nonsense taught by this and other groups is exposed and debunked, this will eventually score heavily for the Christian faith, religious tolerance and community safety and wellbeing." (9 Oct 2022)
Read more at Independent Australia

Carolyn WebbCity on a Hill church rocks again after Essendon drama.
"On the first Sunday since Andrew Thorburn was pressured to step down as the new Essendon Football Club chief executive, some worshippers at his City on a Hill church said the incident had made them worry that they too might confront discrimination for their Christian faith. Thorburn resigned from the football club after its president David Barham gave him a choice between remaining Essendon CEO or the chairman of City on a Hill. He chose the church, then said his “personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square”. (9 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Age

Stan Grant – Essendon, Andrew Thorburn and Christianity: The battle of values that cost a man his job.
"It isn't simply about Christianity. If Thorburn was chairman of a social club that barred women or black people he would have been asked to make the same choice. Essendon is not saying it discriminates against Christians as a group. This is about Essendon's values. Essendon would argue it is not unreasonable that it expects its CEO to uphold the values of the club he leads." (9 Oct 2022)
Read more at ABC News

Nevena SpirovskaWithin the drama around the appointment and resignation of Andrew Thorburn to Essendon Football Club’s top job is an important lesson about leadership.
"The drama of Andrew Thorburn, Essendon Football Club’s chief executive officer for a day, centres on the subject of leadership. Many in the social services sector and beyond would have read by now that Thorburn resigned as Essendon CEO twenty-four hours after being appointed because his ties to a church that condemns homosexuality and reproductive freedoms were in direct contradiction to their club’s values of inclusion and diversity. The fact of the matter is that Thorburn intended to hold two roles at the same time: Essendon CEO and chairman of the Christian church City on a Hill. It happened so fast it could have caused whiplash, but coverage of the incident continues, with much of it missing the point." (12 Oct 2022)
Read more at Pro Bono Australia

David HardakerGod’s business: how the big religions scripted a massive tax handout.
"The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference supports the work of Australia’s most senior clergy, operating from an office in Canberra with more than 40 full-time staff. It is also a registered charity, and as such is eligible for a series of tax breaks on income, FBT and GST. But different rules apply to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference compared to other charities. It does not need to declare its income or any of its financial details to the regulator or to the broader public. It is exempt from the governance standards the government enforces on other charities. And even if it did have to comply with those standards, the regulator — the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) — could not remove any office holder, no matter what they had done. It adds up to a near total immunity from accountability." (11 Oct 2022)
Read more at Crikey

David HardakerHow the Coalition ignored experts to protect religious charities.
"Having come into being as a political fix in the dying months of the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd government, the special deal for religious interests — the basic religious charity exemption (BRC) — has survived for a decade under the grace and favour of successive Coalition governments that declined to act on recommendations from academics, lawyers and not-for-profit tax specialists. Calls to end the BRC exemption reached a peak in 2018, coinciding with the end of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. One of its six commissioners, Robert Fitzgerald, said the royal commission had demonstrated a need for 'greater transparency and accountability in relation to all non-profits, but particularly charitable organisations'." (12 Oct 2022)
Read more at Crikey (paywalled)

David Hardaker10 ways that church charities are a law unto themselves.
"A basic religious charity (BRC) is not subject to the same rules as other charities: it is not obliged to give the regulator any information on its finances, no matter its size, and unlike other charities, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission cannot suspend or remove a member of a BRC’s governing body." (12 Oct 2022)
Read more at Crikey (paywalled)

David HardakerHillsong saga might well unravel the special deal for other religious charities.
"Several Hillsong Church entities have enjoyed the benefit of total secrecy and almost a complete lack of accountability to the federal government regulator, due to being classified as basic religious charities (BRCs). However, events triggered earlier this year threaten to undo the special governance and tax exemptions pivotal to the church’s financial success. Hillsong might have generated millions and millions of dollars through various revenue streams, but it has maintained its charity status because it says the purpose of all that money is to advance religion." (13 Oct 2022)
Read more at Crikey (paywalled)

John FrewPublic Education – a test for the ALP.
"The ALP has to attend to the shameful state of public education. Attempts to shift the responsibility on to the Coalition may be appealing but the geneses of these conditions lies at the feet of Julia Gillard. There is no doubt Gillard cared about education; you could not doubt her commitment to improving the learning outcomes for all Australian students. However, her reforms have resulted in public schools being reduced to third-world conditions." (14 Oct 2022)
Read more at Pearls & Irritations

David Hardaker – Calls grow for end of special treatment for religious charities.
"Former Labor senator Chris Schacht is leading calls for the federal government to abolish the special tax treatment granted to religious institutions. His call comes in the wake of a Crikey investigation this week that revealed how large, well-heeled churches have been able to run their financial affairs in secret and with little or no accountability by signing up as a “basic religious charity” (BRC). Schacht, the founding chair of a federal human rights sub-committee and now an ambassador for the National Secular Lobby of Australia, told Crikey it was “absolutely outrageous” that religious organisations were given an exemption from transparency and good governance, in addition to generous tax breaks." (14 Oct 2022)
Read more at Crikey (paywalled)

Parnell Palme McGuinnessWhy I’m an atheist, but not proud of it.
"Pride goes before a fall, goes the saying. I was reminded of this proverb-turned-truism as I followed the public discussion around Andrew Thorburn’s ascension to and rapid descension from the CEOship of Essendon Football Club after it was discovered that he chairs a church which has expressed churchy beliefs. Perhaps it was prideful for Thorburn to try to hold both roles at once, but the crowing of the atheists as he gave up the football club was nothing short of vainglorious." (15 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Age

Adam WesselinoffThorburn case more concerning than Folau.
"The Andrew Thorburn case is 'far more concerning' than Israel Folau or other high-profile cases, according to the principal lawyer of Australia’s only religious freedom law firm. John Steenhof, who heads the Human Rights Law Alliance, said that in Mr Folau’s case the footballer had posted material online, had a code of conduct and his club could point to a 'nebulous contractual breach'. 'In this case Andrew Thorburn has said nothing. Nothing. In fact, as chairman at National Australia Bank his actions were to promote diversity.' (15 Oct 2022)
Read more at the Catholic Weekly

Events and Campaigns

The Bill to overturn the ban on NT/ACT's ability to pass VAD laws is still being debated. Ask your state Senators to support territory rights!

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.

That's it for another week!

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