Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 19 March 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the National Level
Hillsong Church will launch an independent review of its financial structure and systems to ensure the organisation can carry out its religious mission in the wake of allegations of fraud and extravagant spending. Last week, independent MP Andrew Wilkie made allegations against Dooley, church founder Brian Houston and other senior members of the church under parliamentary privilege, while also tabling 17 binders of church financial records provided to him by an unnamed whistleblower. (12 Mar 2023)
Read more at The Age
Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and Melbourne Archbishop Peter A Comensoli have warned that law changes proposed by the Australian Law Reform Commission would prevent Church schools from being authentically Catholic, arguing they would discount the rights of people with a religious faith. The fears were raised in the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s submission to the Law Reform Commission’s Inquiry into Religious Educational Institutions and Anti-Discrimination Laws. (15 Mar 2023)
Read more at the Catholic Leader
Around the Country
TAS: The ABC have revealed that the editor of Tasmania’s The Examiner newspaper, which last week published a false claim about transgender women, was previously the campaign manager and media advisor for failed Liberal candidate Katherine Deves. Mark Westfield took up the post just a few months ago, returning to the local newspaper where he first began his career decades ago. (12 Mar 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth
NSW: New South Wales Premier Domonic Perrottet has dumped Matthew Squires as the Liberal party’s candidate for Wyong in the state election after The Australian highlighted his history of homophobic and racists social media posts. Alongside derogatory comments about LGBTIQA+ people which included comparison to terrorists and labels of “perversion” and “serving evil ideologies” Squires also shared anti-vax comments and Islamaphobia. (14 Mar 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth
WA: At the Let Women Speak event held on the steps of Western Australia’s Parliament on Tuesday, Sophia Moermond, a member of the WA Legislative Council representing the Legalise Cannabis Party, said there had been a rejection of science in favour of ideology when it came to transgender health treatments, and she held concerns about affirmative care models, the puberty of young people who are transgender, violent offenders who are transgender being held in female prisons, reduced safeguarding of children, the cost to Medicare of people "detransitioning", transgender women being allowed to play sport, and the "silencing of women’s voices." (15 Mar 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth
QLD: Queensland school accreditation rules will be reviewed by an experienced educator after controversy surrounding a Christian college's gender and sexuality contracts. The state government has appointed Cheryl Vardon to lead the independent review of the accreditation framework for non-state schools in Queensland. It comes after Brisbane's Citipointe Christian College made national headlines when it sent parents gender and sexuality contracts for students. The contract demanded families denounce homosexuality and that students identify by birth gender, or risk being excluded from the school. (15 Mar 2023)
Read more at the Seymour Telegraph
NSW: Librarians at the Australian Catholic University have been ordered to remove the public display of rainbow flags across campuses, sparking backlash from staff who say the move is “a direct affront to the common good”. In an email sent late last month, staff were asked not to display rainbow flags and stickers across the institution’s multi-state campus libraries. (15 Mar 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald
NT: Euthanasia advocates have blasted the Northern Territory's Labor government over inaction on a vote on the issue before next NT election. After long-awaited reform at the federal level late last year, the NT and ACT won back the right to legislate on the issue. But Territory Labor has said it won't move on the issue until at least next year, after a general election. (16 Mar 2023)
Read more at ABC News
NSW: Mark Latham will seek to overturn a longstanding ban on nuclear power technologies, strengthen "parental rights" and protect Christians from vilification if One Nation picks up enough seats to make him a kingmaker after the New South Wales election. (16 Mar 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
NSW: The Perrottet government appears unconcerned that creationism is being taught in the state’s public schools under the guise of the Special Religious Education (SRE) program. Questions to the relevant ministers on the appropriateness of this have gone unanswered. (16 Mar 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia
NSW: A Liberal party candidate in western Sydney shared online posts stating parents who sent their children to public schools were making “the most costly spiritual decision they’ve ever made” and calling homosexuality “one of the many sins that excludes us from the Kingdom of God”. The party’s Blacktown candidate, Allan Green, also previously expressed support for repealing the right of gay couples to adopt, shared posts warning against Muslim immigration, and said same-sex marriage could cause the abolition of Mother’s and Father’s Day. (17 Mar 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
VIC: A group of men have performed Nazi salutes on the steps of the Victorian parliament as clashes broke out between protesters in Melbourne. About 30 people from the National Socialist Movement marched along Spring Street on Saturday afternoon, repeatedly performing the salute at an anti-transgender rights rally. They also held signs calling transgender people offensive names, while British anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull spoke to the crowd. (18 Mar 2023)
Read more at SBS News
Commentary and Analysis
Alex Turnbull: The Australian Liberal Party and Religion.
"There are a lot of people who make fun of various religious groups on twitter of the more extreme or fringe Christian variety. The benefits of the group cohesion within these groups cannot be readily denied - the branch stacking in the Victorian branch has been widely reported as in South Australia. Increasingly if you want to get preselected in the Liberal Party you do not necessarily have to be a member of one of these religious groups but you probably need their indifference at a minimum. To that end those claiming the Liberal Party has been hijacked do have a point: these groups do not necessarily represent a majority but a highly cohesive minority of 25-30% can exert effective control, as any investor in Asian listed but still substantively family controlled equities can attest." (13 Mar 2023)
Read more at Syncretica
Lucy Smith: Aristotle in the age of consent: Why the emphasis on “purity” in Opus Dei schools is misplaced — and ultimately dangerous.
"Bretlyn Owens, Elizabeth Lewis Hall, and Tamara Anderson offer the following concise distillation of purity culture into six themes: “an emphasis on virginity, the prohibition of physical affection, the need for modesty, sexual gatekeeping, denial of female autonomy, and a lack of education on sexual consent.” It turns out that Claire Harris’s summary of our [Opus Dei] education is a fairly classic education in purity, right down to the use of contamination metaphors. And this made me start to suspect that purity culture and rape culture might have more to do with one another than I initially thought." (15 Mar 2023)
Read more at ABC Religion & Ethics
David Hardaker: A megachurch exposed: thousands of now-public Hillsong documents to test government’s will to act against religious interests.
"The whistleblower documents also raise serious questions about the federal government’s special treatment of religious charities. Under a decade-long arrangement, church-run charities are exempt from disclosing financial information to the charities regulator. This has effectively created a secret haven, virtually beyond regulation, for all religions in Australia, not just Hillsong. The question is whether or not the Albanese government has the will to take on powerful religious interests — and their media backers — which have a vested interest in keeping their affairs secret." (17 Mar 2023)
Read more at Crikey
Bonnie Hart: ACT intersex legislation brings protection, but more importantly, fosters connection.
"Proposed legislation in the Australian Capital Territory to protect the human rights of people, particularly children, with innate variations of sex characteristics (intersex) in medical settings, will set the benchmark for other states and territories. ... For decades our intersex peer groups have been supporting community and working to improve intersex awareness whilst also persuading medical practitioners that otherwise unnecessary procedures to “normalise” sex characterises must only be done when the person can provide full and informed consent." (17 Mar 2023)
Read more at the Star Observer
Martin McKenzie-Murray: ‘Fraud, money laundering’: Inside the Hillsong papers.
"On Thursday, March 9, independent MP Andrew Wilkie stood in parliament and announced that he was tabling a giant cache of documents alleging financial malfeasance by the Australian megachurch Hillsong. 'Last year a whistleblower provided me with financial records and board papers that show that Hillsong is breaking numerous laws in Australia and around the world relating to fraud, money laundering and tax evasion,' he said." (18 Mar 2023)
Read more at The Saturday Paper
Events and Campaigns
Faithless Hijabi is an Australian organisation dedicated to supporting ex-Muslims who have left their religion, are holding a fundraiser on the morning of Sunday 26 March. Read more at their website.
The RSA is encouraging its Queensland-based members and supporters to email state education ministers to let the government know you oppose public schools being treated as mission fields. Read more at the RSA website.
News Corp have begun a new podcast series, "Faith on Trial", investigating various stories relating to Hillsong, including alleged exploitation of staff, questionable treatment of Hillsong college students, and the trial of Brian Houston.
Listen to the podcast here
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.