Weekend Wrap for 17 September 2023

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 17 September 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

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At the National Level

A number of Christian federal Labor MPs have helped to establish a parliamentary ‘friendship group’ to advocate for religious-based chaplaincy in schools, despite the Albanese government’s re-introduction of secular wellbeing officers. Photos posted to social media show that Labor MPs Shayne Neumann, David Smith and Milton Dick, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, joined with Christian Liberal MPs for the launch of the Parliamentary Friends of School Chaplaincy group. Parliamentary friends groups provide non-partisan forums for all MPs and Senators to meet and support particular causes of a shared interest. The establishment of the friendship group appears to be a snub to the secular roles introduced in the Albanese government’s new National School Wellbeing Program (NSWP), which is explicitly a non-religious program that provides schools with the option to appoint either a secular wellbeing officer or a religious chaplain in what are essentially youth worker roles. Education minister Jason Clare later backed the establishment of the group. (12 Sep 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Around the Country

WA: The difficulties survivors of child sexual abuse face when attempting to pursue justice is a reality of complexities of the church, the Catholic Archbishop of Perth says. Described variously as a "war of attrition" and an "attempt to break you down", survivors have spoken of unnecessarily long delays in legal proceedings and unreasonable demands for information. Archbishop Costelloe, who has been the Catholic Archbishop of Perth since 2012 and gave evidence at the 2017 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, said he was "horrified by the extent of this abuse in Catholic institutions" and "personally shamed by the failure of so many of our leaders to respond with compassion and integrity." (11 Sep 2023)
Read more at ABC News

WA: A self-described "racist, sexist, democracy-scorning whites-lover" running for local government in Western Australia is standing by what he says are his "Christian" views. Footage has emerged of Stephen Wells, who is running for a City of Busselton council position, saying he intends to hide his agenda until after the October election. (11 Sep 2023)
Read more at ABC News

NSW: One of the major Christian churches has rebuked the NSW government for its lack of courage on drug reform, and called for decriminalisation to be back on the table at a promised drug summit. Reverend Faaimata Havea Hiliau, the new moderator of the Uniting Church in NSW and the ACT, said the Minns government should keep its election promise for a drug summit and hold one early next year. Minns' stance against decriminalisation puts him at odds with some members of his cabinet, including Youth and Homelessness Minister Rose Jackson, who has said NSW is lagging behind other states and should join the “nationwide movement” to pill testing and evidence-based drug policy. (12 Sep 2023)
Read more at The Age

WA: Support groups have warned a Western Australian inquiry that abuse survivors are paying the “ultimate price” and having their attempt for justice “quashed” by the pursuit of permanent stays by churches and other institutions. The WA parliament is now examining issues restricting access to justice for sexual abuse survivors, particularly in the wake of nationwide reforms to remove time limits on the bringing of civil claims for compensation. (12 Sep 2023)
Read more at The Guardian

ACT: The ACT Government should not be made to hold an inquiry into its forced takeover of the Calvary Hospital, a Senate Committee has recommended after hearing from Catholic, Calvary Health Care, and ACT Government leaders. The Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee’s 7 September report said the passage of the ACT’s enabling legislation for the acquisition “represents the expressed will of the Australian Capital Territory’s elected legislature” and that to require the government to conduct an inquiry “would undermine the independence of that legislature.” (13 Sep 2023)
Read more at the Catholic Weekly

QLD: Thousands of angry parents have been joined by students as they mobilise in a campaign to have a principal reinstated at an elite Brisbane school after he was sensationally axed by the Anglican Church. The principal, Dr Paul Browning, was committed to refunding the tuition fees of former students sexually abused at St Paul’s during the 1980s and 1990s – long before his 2008 appointment – and this was reportedly a trigger for the hostilities. (14 Sep 2023)
Read more at the Courier Mail

NSW: Religious leaders will use a “milestone” faith council to push NSW Premier Chris Minns for stronger protections for religious freedom, amendments to voluntary assisted dying laws and better outcomes for their communities. The 16-member NSW Faith Affairs Council, will be the most influential in state history and will directly advise Multiculturalism Minister Steve Kamper on faith-based matters, programs and policy. (14 Sep 2023)
Read more at The Australian

QLD: Queensland abuse survivors are dying or even taking their own lives before receiving compensation from the alleged perpetrators with institutions accused of dragging out the process by “years”, leading law firms say. Despite it being more than six years since the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse were handed down, Queensland lawyers say little has changed. (16 Sep 2023)
Read more at the Courier Mail

Commentary and Analysis

Clare Heath-McIvor: Inside the indoctrinated mind
"Earlier this year, I wrote here about radicalisation, white Christian nationalism and how the far and extreme right-wing interface. In it, I doxxed myself pretty heavily because I used to be out there on the far right wing. ... In its simplest form, indoctrination is a process through which a teacher gets a student to believe something without being able to question those beliefs. By ‘teacher’, I mean anyone leading, influencing or giving instruction. By ‘student’, I mean anyone on the receiving end of that instruction. While the differences between good teaching methods and unethical ones are many, perhaps the most important factor in indoctrination is that it bypasses rationality. It is not instilling in the learner any type of intellectual skill or virtue. In fact, it relies on the lack thereof." (8 Sep 2023)
Read more at Rationale Magazine

Lucy Hamilton: The war on "gender" is a fascist threat
"The Right is obsessed with gender. This deep paranoia comes out of America and international far right movements. It harms straight people and LGBTQIA+ people differently, and we need to fight it before our copycat Right entrenches it here too. ... The Catholic Church invented the mythical “Gender Ideology” in the 1990s as a focus for the fear of LGBTQIA+ existence and feminism. The term now pervades the international Right. ...these threats are on display in our Coalition parties under siege by Christian Nationalists and Orbanist Eastern European 'traditionalist' politics." (10 Sep 2023)
Read more at the AIMN

Events and Campaigns

At an upcoming RSA Webinar on 27 September, Dr Rebecca Banham, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at University of Tasmania, will share insights into her research on the media’s responses to non-religion in Australia, especially against the backdrop of increasing challenge to historical Christian privilege.
Register your interest here

The inaugural Secularism Australia Conference will be held in Sydney on 2 December 2023. Early-bird tickets are on sale until 7 October.
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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