Weekend Wrap for 19 February 2023

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 19 February 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country. Although we typically cover the last seven days' news, we do occasionally reach back a little further if something of importance has been missed.

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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

Anthony Albanese has reiterated that Labor will respect religious schools' right to select staff based on faith, after widespread backlash from religious groups to a proposal to limit their hiring and firing powers. On Monday an alliance of religious leaders rejected a proposal by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to allow religious preference only where "the teaching, observance or practice of religion is a genuine occupational requirement". (14 Feb 2023)
Read more at The Guardian

The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher OP, Sydney Anglican Archbishop Kanishka Raffel and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Makarios Griniezakis have joined other senior religious leaders in a general revolt against the Federal Government’s proposed religious educational reforms. In a letter to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, Archbishop Fisher and his co-signatories convey their 'deep disappointment' with the proposed reforms in the Australian Law Reform Commission’s consultation paper on religious educational institutions and anti-discrimination laws. (14 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Catholic Weekly

Scientology’s reclusive leader, David Miscavige, has 21 days to respond to allegations from a human-trafficking case brought by three Australian residents after nearly a year of avoiding legal service. The three have claimed in a civil case lodged in Florida that they had endured horrendous emotional, physical and psychological abuse while in Scientology. (16 Feb 2023)
Read more at The Age

Queensland police investigators have now declared the shooting deaths of six people including two Queensland police officers at a rural property two months ago to be Australia's first domestic terror attack inspired by "Christian extremist ideology".  The perpetrators were identified as subscribing to "a broad Christian fundamentalist belief system known as premillennialism". (16 Feb 2023)
Read more at SBS News

A new survey commissioned by the Secular Association of NSW finds strong popular support (approximately 53 per cent of Australians) for an amendment to the constitution to formally separate government and religion. 13 per cent were opposed to such an amendment and 33 per cent 'didn’t know'. (17 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Secular Association of NSW

Around the Country

NSW: The King’s School has been ordered to stop the planned construction of a plunge pool at its headmaster’s residence after a government investigation found it would be an improper use of the school’s money. Authorities are also investigating a controversial trip by the headmaster, his deputy and their wives in a first-class flight to the world’s most prestigious rowing event in London. The King's School received $21 million in federal funding in 2020. (13 Feb 2023)
Read more at The Age

NSW: NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns has pledged to put an end to LGBT conversion practices if he wins the next election, but Christian policy experts have said the proposal risks penalising foundational teaching on personhood. (14 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Catholic Weekly

QLD: Following the recent letter from 21 Victorian councillors to the state government querying the appropriateness of prayer in council meetings, concerns continue to be raised about this widespread practice. The RSA has now put the question to Redland City Council in Queensland as to whether the council's practice of opening meetings with up to 10 minutes of exclusively Christian worship is discriminatory. (15 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

TAS: Hobart councillor and former mayoral candidate Louise Elliot on Monday introduced a motion to have segregated toilet facilities for trans persons and to exclude them from change rooms that correspond to their gender identity. (15 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Star Observer

NSW: The conservative Anglican archbishop of Sydney has apologised to clergy for causing them distress after the diocese's newspaper mistakenly promoted a talk by a gay Anglican who is one of the world's leading authorities on harm caused by conversion therapy. The diocese’s Southern Cross newspaper ran an advertisement for talks by Jayne Ozanne – who has discussed the harm of conversion practices with Pope Francis. (16 Feb 2023)
Read more at The Age

VIC: A veteran police officer with 36 years of experience in the Victorian police who justified his anti-LGBTQI comments by citing his Catholic "Christian beliefs" has been sacked. (16 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Star Observer

NSW: Both the New South Wales government and opposition have pledged to support legislation banning gay conversion practices in the state. Independent MP Alex Greenwich has drafted a bill to ban conversion practices and welcomed the bipartisanship on the issue. Premier Dominic Perrottet has pledged "in principle" support for the legislation. (17 Feb 2023)
Read more at ABC News

Commentary and Analysis

Trevor Cobbold: Shocking Inequity in NSW school outcomes and funding.
"Public schools in NSW are vastly under-funded to meet the challenges they face. In 2022, they were funded at 87.4% of their Schooling Resource Standard (SRS). They will remain under-funded until at least 2029 under current funding arrangements. By contrast, private schools, who serve only a small minority of disadvantaged students, are significantly over-funded. In 2022, they were funded at 105.9% of their SRS and will remain over-funded for the rest of the decade." (13 Feb 2023)
Read more at Pearls & Irritations

David Hastie: Defunding private schools is not on, but we can make education fairer.
(A response to Why we should defund private schools and examine their values, 31 Jan 2023)
"State schooling was tweaked postwar to introduce compulsory secondary schooling, but the design of public education has remained essentially the same: totally centralised from head offices in capital cities, and underpinned by an enduring narrative that all schools, and their communities, are fundamentally disadvantaged and cannot run themselves. But now more than 1.4 million children in Australia are enrolled in faith-affiliated non-government schools that run themselves. That’s 40 per cent of secondary students. In the eastern capital cities, it is almost half of senior secondary students." (13 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

Alison Courtice: The 113 year old elephant in Queensland’s state school classrooms.
"Religious Instruction (RI), or as I call it, the elephant in the state school classroom, remains as controversial in 2023 as it was in 1910 when the law was changed to give churches right of entry to state schools to hold Sunday School during school hours. At that time, 84% of Queenslanders were Christian, and they were proud of their internationally recognised truly secular state education. Hansard’s record of speeches demonstrates the controversy and reluctance to change the law but change it they did. The legal requirement for state schools to be secular was removed to accommodate RI." (14 Feb 2023)
Read more at the National Secular Lobby

Lucy Hamilton: Unite to block the Right’s campaign to divide and conquer.
"Australia must not allow our politicians and 'thought' leaders on the right to push us down the destructive path being pursued by the Republicans. The American right is waging war on modernity. The radicalised right alliance is sacrificing empirical evidence and truth for theocracy, tribal games and lies. It is determined to reverse the achievements of the Civil Rights era: white Christian man will return to his rightful place as delineator of truth. The contingent is destroying America’s standing to achieve it." (15 Feb 2023)
Read more at the AIMN

Mark Fowler: Authentic culture of faith-based schools must be protected.
"The public release on Monday of a letter signed by the leaders of all major faith traditions addressed to the federal Attorney-General has reignited the debate on religious freedoms in this country. The leaders convey their 'deep disappointment' with proposed reforms released for comment by the Australian Law Reform Commission. Those reforms are in response to the Albanese government’s request for laws that will ensure that a religious school 'must not discriminate against a member of staff' but may 'continue to build a community of faith by giving preference … to persons of the same religion'." (15 Feb 2023)
Read more at The Australian

Ellie Dudley: Religious schools ‘lose faith’ in law reform.
"Two major Christian schooling associations have pulled out of a consultation process with the Australian Law Reform Commission over new anti-discrimination laws for religious schools, claiming to have 'lost faith' in the commission remaining 'balanced' in tackling the issue. The Australian Association of Christian Schools and Christian Schools Australia, which cover about 150,000 students across every state and territory, wrote to ALRC Commissioner Stephen Rothman to withdraw from further consultation on the new legislation, and reached out to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus to voice grave concerns over 'radical reforms' that could 'strip religious schools of their rights'." (15 Feb 2023)
Read more at The Australian

James Robertson: Preparing for the end of days: Australia’s Christian terrorists.
"Six people were shot dead on a rural Queensland farm two months ago as a result of Christian fundamentalism, it has been found – the first case in modern times. Police will now explore links between the family who prepared for murder and doomsday and American evangelical believers, a demographic experts say has high potential for radicalism." (16 Feb 2023)
Read more at The New Daily

Neil Foster: Is declining to print a Pride poster unlawful?
"Press reports today record that a local franchisee of company “Kwik Kopy” declined a request to print posters for an event associated with the 'World Pride' events happening in Sydney at the moment- see this report from Nine News. But, of course, not everyone is on board with an event celebrating sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage. Mr Wing Khong, a Christian man who runs the Sydney CBD franchise of Kwik Kopy, declined to accept an order from Skater Leo Bunch, who emailed to ask for a quote to print 'roller derby' flyers with a World Pride theme. Mr Khong commented: 'There was no offence meant. Everyone is entitled is to their own position. I don't believe it was discrimination, rather I was just obeying the Word of God.'" (18 Feb 2023)
Read more at Law and Religion Australia

Events and Campaigns

The next Rationalist Society of Australia webinar is on the "Growing inequality and segregation in our education system" and is taking place on 22 February 2023 at 7:30pm.
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has released a Consultation Paper and sought a response from the general public about proposed new anti-discrimination rules that will make it illegal for religious schools to expel students or sack staff "on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status, or pregnancy in schools". Submissions close 24 February 2023.
Read more (and make a submission) at the ALRC or Respond to the consultation via a survey instead

The Joint Standing Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme are holding an inquiry into the operations of the National Redress Scheme. Written submissions are due by Monday 27 February 2023.
Read more at the Australian Parliament House website

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.

That's it for another week!

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