Weekend Wrap for 19 June 2022

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 19 June 2022, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

We would like to note the passing of Nia Sims, a passionate campaigner for VAD in Australia. Nia spoke to the NSL in 2019 about the ability to access VAD and associated assessment services in a healthcare system with so many faith-based healthcare providers. Her fighting spirit will be sorely missed.

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

The Rationalist Society of Australia is seeking an explanation from the Royal Australian Navy’s top brass on why ‘theology’ is listed as a relevant qualification for new secular wellbeing support roles within Navy’s Chaplaincy Branch. RSA president Meredith Doig argued that this appeared to be “inconsistent” with the purpose of the MSWOs providing a non-religious pastoral care capability to an increasingly non-religious workforce. (13 June 2022)
Read more at the RSA

The Prime Minister's appointment of Matt Thistlethwaite as the Assistant Minister for a Republic has alarmed the old guard of the Australian Monarchist League. Some in the group labelled the decision as the "first shot" in what might be a long journey towards a second republic referendum. (15 Jun 2022)
Read more at ABC News

The New education minister, Jason Clare, confirmed on Friday the Albanese government intends to give schools a choice of whether to hire a religious or secular pastoral care worker through the $60m-a-year program. “I don’t think this is controversial. I think this is common sense,” he was reported as saying. “We want qualified people to be doing this sort of work.” This option was available briefly under the Gillard Labor government but revoked again under Abbott. (17 Jun 2022)
Read more at The Guardian

Around the Country

VIC: Law reforms to ban religious organisations and faith-based schools in Victoria from refusing to hire, or from sacking, teachers and staff for being LGBTQI, came into effect on Tuesday. The Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Act passed by the Victorian Parliament in December 2021 means that that Victoria now joins Tasmania, Queensland and the ACT in protecting LGBTI staff from dismissal on such grounds. (14 Jun 2022)
Read more at the Star Observer

ACT: The new Senate will have a progressive majority after former Wallabies captain David Pocock was confirmed as a senator of the ACT, ousting Liberal Zed Seselja. Seselja had previously drawn ire from progressive Territorians for refusing to support attempts to restore the right of the ACT to pass its own legislation on issues such as VAD, currently prevented by the 1997 'Andrews Bill'. (14 Jun 2022)
Read more at The Age

NSW: (More on this story from last week) The NSW government has promised $743 million in extra funding for palliative care services over the next five years, highlighting some of the work that needs to be done to ensure quality end-of-life care is available to everyone across the state. (15 Jun 2022)
Read more at Eternity News

VIC: Greens senator Janet Rice says the position of the party’s recently elected Victorian convener is “untenable” unless she distances herself from previous comments that have been labelled transphobic. (15 Jun 2022)
Read more at The Guardian

TAS: It's now been confirmed that conservative Liberal stalwart Eric Abetz, who consistently opposed policies such as decriminalisation of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion rights, and climate action, has lost his Senate seat. Abetz’s unsuccessful election bid ends 28 consecutive years in the Senate. (16 Jun 2022)
Read more at The Guardian

NSW: Christian crusader and NSW upper house MP Fred Nile has opposed almost every reform that same-sex marriage campaigner and Sydney MP Alex Greenwich has worked to achieve in parliament. However, as Nile, 87, heads toward the end of his 40-year parliamentary career, he and Greenwich have forged an unlikely alliance through a shared passion for Indigenous rights and reconciliation. (18 Jun 2022)
Read more at The Age

Commentary and Analysis

Barbara Heggen (ABC RN)Do faith workers need a holy alliance?: "Even in the face of very real threats of legal action they would not budge and that reflects a culture where faith organisations have been a law unto themselves. If you believe you are only accountable to God … then it makes it very easy to just say 'no court, no Fair Work Commission, no external arbiter can impact this'." (12 Jun 2022)
Read more at ABC News

Ben Schneiders and Simone Fox KoobParent says she was deceived by Scientology-linked ‘grammar’ school: "A recent investigation by The Age uncovered undisclosed links between Mooroolbark Grammar and Scientology, a religion described by critics as an abusive cult. The new Mooroolbark Grammar has prominently advertised links to a Montessori early education program taught on site, which prompted concerns the school was using that as cover to hide its Scientology links to prospective parents." (12 Jun 2022)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

John DicksonWhat’s so offensive about Australia’s public school chaplaincy program? An open letter to Jane Caro: "You say that your recent piece arguing against the school chaplaincy program is likely to come across as “offensive” — but not nearly as offensive as you personally find the program itself. I think very few of us who are broadly supportive of chaplains in public schools find your piece offensive. But I find myself wondering how your argument amounts to more than an expression of your personal distaste of religion." (13 Jun 2022)
Read more at ABC News

Josh PallasWhat next for queer politics under the Anthony Albanese government?: "Like many other queer people I breathed a sigh of relief when it became clear that the Scott Morrison government was deposed. As if Prime Minister Morrison’s harmful rhetoric towards queer people was not damaging enough, his government’s policy positions sought to remove protections from discrimination, and to in fact expressly permit it." (14 Jun 2022)
Read more at the Star Observer

Jane CaroWhy the public school chaplaincy program is (still) a bad idea: A response to John Dickson: "When I began formulating my own response to Dickson’s eight points of disagreement, I had it in mind that I would rebut them one by one — including those points where I felt I had been misrepresented. But halfway through writing I changed my mind. It was wordy and repetitive and — frankly — rather dull. Instead, I have decided to offer five reasons why I still think the chaplaincy program in public schools is a bad idea." (15 Jun 2022)
Read more at ABC News

Aileen Kennedy, Alice de Jonge and Morgan CarpenterACT releases Australian-first draft law to protect intersex children from irreversible medical harm: "The Australian Capital Territory government has released a consultation draft law to protect the rights of intersex people. If passed, the bill would ban deferrable medical interventions on children with intersex traits until they’re old enough to decide treatments for themselves. There will be exceptions for emergency and urgently necessary procedures. The bill will criminalise unnecessary medical interventions, and create an independent body to determine whether other proposed procedures are urgently necessary." (15 Jun 2022)
Read more at The Conversation

Rob Norman (ACL)ACT: Government decriminalises illicit drugs: "The ACT Government’s decision to decriminalise the possession and use of illicit drugs is irresponsible and lacks compassion. If the Portuguese experience of decriminalisation is anything to go by, we can expect an increase in experimentation with hard drugs, a significant spike in crime, including homicides, and an increase in treatment for drug abuse." (15 Jun 2022)
Read more at the ACL

Hugh Harris (RSA)What’s so offensive about secularism?: "Demonising secularism has become something of a sport for the religious right in the United States. Secularists are routinely painted as ‘aggressive’ or ‘militant’, often with allusions to 20th-century totalitarian regimes. Secularism becomes a Stalinist strawman rising as the enemy of all faith. In culture war rhetoric, truth is often the first casualty. Clearly, Australia is not immune. In his open letter to Jane Caro on the subject of the school chaplaincy program, John Dickson, founding director of the Centre for Public Christianity, provides an example par excellence of the strange sport of secularism bashing." (16 Jun 2022)
Read more at Rationale Magazine

Paul GregoireThe ACT Government Has Greenlighted Drug Decriminalisation: "'The Uniting Church Synod of NSW/ACT has been advocating for drug decriminalisation since 2016. This led to the launch of its Fair Treatment campaign in 2018, which has a large number of civil society organisations supporting it, including the NSW Bar Association. Decriminalisation doesn’t solve the problem, but it goes a long way to reducing stigma and allowing people to access the help and support that they need when they need it.'” (16 Jun 2022)
Read more at Sydney Criminal Lawyers

Elizabeth FarrellyWhy Australia should ban private schools: "Education is the key to civilised life – which is why, if I could change one thing about Australia, it would be this. I’d ban private schools. Not because such schools are necessarily bad, nor do they necessarily produce bad people. Rather, private schools are systemically toxic to the kind of vibrant and inventive future we desperately need to create." (18 Jun 2022)
Read more at The Saturday Paper

Neil FosterReligious Freedom Challenges for Theological Colleges in Australia: "I am presenting a paper to a seminar for senior leaders in Australian theological colleges, dealing with religious freedom challenges. I comment briefly on some of the current protections provided, but also how those protection have been eroded recently, especially in Victoria (where amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) which I previously commented on have now commenced.) A copy of the paper can be downloaded here." (18 Jun 2022)
Read more at Law and Religion Australia

Events and Campaigns

At the next RSA webinar on 22 June, former Navy Principal Chaplain Collin Acton will present on the need for the ADF to transition its religious-based model of pastoral support to a new secular wellbeing capability. To attend, register here.

A petition currently running on change.org calls for private schools to pay back their unnecessary Jobkeeper payments. View the petition here.

National LGBTQIA+ advocacy group Just.Equal Australia are hoping to learn more about how LGBTQIA+ Australians and allies voted in the recent federal election. Participate in the survey here.

Sally Goldner is running a petition on an open letter to three key people in the new Labor government calling for speedy action on federal LGBTIQA+ reforms. View the petition 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.

Minister for Human Rights, Tara Cheyne, is running a petition calling on the Australian government to restore the right of Territories to pass laws on VAD. She also recommends people email the Commonwealth Attorney-General with their views, at attorney@ag.gov.au.

Dying With Dignity NSW has a tool that makes it easy for people to contact their federal MPs and senators to request help in repealing the "Andrews Bill", the 1997 legislation which denies the Territories the right to pass legislation on Voluntary Assisted Dying.

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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