Weekend Wrap for 19 May 2024

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 19 May 2024, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

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At the National Level

Education ministers around the country are urging the federal government to fairly fund public schools ahead of this week's federal budget. Education ministers from Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia joined the Australian Education Union (AEU) and principals' associations to call on the federal government to bring the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) up to the full 100 per cent. New data released in March this year showed the federal government funding for Tasmanian private schools increased 1.7 times the rate of funding for public schools between 2013 and 2022. Public schools are currently funded below the SRS, the minimum level governments agreed to more than 10 years ago following a review by David Gonski. (13 May 2024)
Read more at The Examiner

The Australian Defence Force and other authorities that host Anzac Day services must pursue secular reform of the commemorations or risk alienating many currently serving and former Defence personnel, a veteran has told The Secular Agenda podcast. Sam Proctor spoke about his submission to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide in which he called for reform of Anzac Day commemorations inside Defence and also in the community. Proctor, who separated from the Australian Army last year after 10 years in service, said the Christian dominance of Dawn Services was “exclusionary” and “hugely damaging” for many non-religious and non-Christian service personnel. (14 May 2024)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Teacher unions and parent groups have marked down the federal budget for failing to fill the “Gonski gap’’ in needs-based funding to public schools. Parents and Citizens federal president Yvonne Hilsz said the federal budget revealed a “stark neglect of our public school kids and their fundamental education needs’’. Australian Education Union president Correna Haythorpe said the Albanese government was favouring private schools. “The public knows there is deep inequity in how public schools are funded compared with private schools in Australia,’’ she said. (15 May 2024)
Read more at The Australian

81-year-old tennis champion turned preacher, and founder of the evangelical Victory Life Church, Reverend Margaret Court, has called on Australian governments to take action against transgender youth. In the video, Reverend Court shares the regularly debunked urban myth that children are going to school identifying as cats and dogs. Court called on Australia’s political leaders to shut down gender treatment services for young people. (16 May 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

Non-religious public servants could soon be able to take paid leave to commemorate important cultural days that reflect their beliefs, such as Charles Darwin Day, Atheist Day or World Humanist Day. The newly implemented Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) Enterprise Agreement 2024-27 has introduced a provision for up to three days of paid leave per year for the “purpose of attending significant religious or cultural obligations associated with the employees’ particular faith or culture”. (16 May 2024)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

A Liberal Party politician is backing the Catholic Church’s crusade for the Albanese government to block proposed changes to the Census religion question. South Australian upper house member Jing Lee has placed a motion on the Notice Paper calling on the federal government to reject the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) proposal to change the question for the next Census in 2026. Following a two-year community engagement process, the ABS revealed that the public had raised “potential bias in the question wording” as a major concern, with nearly 200 submissions addressing the topic. (18 May 2024)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Around the Country

TAS: A letter written by the Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous and circulated to Catholic school students statewide, has been criticised as transphobic, homophobic and draconian by LGBTIQA+ advocates and others. Porteous took aim at a "radicalised transgender lobby", legal abortion access, voluntary assisted dying and euthanasia, and same-sex marriage — as well as the "woke" movement which he says is "seeking to overturn other traditional values and beliefs". An Independent MP whose child attends a Catholic school received the letter and says she is concerned it breaches Tasmanian anti-discrimination laws. (14 May 2024)
Read more at ABC News

NSW: Cumberland City Council in Western Sydney has voted to reinstate same-sex parenting books in its libraries after they were controversially banned earlier this month. The Council passed the motion with 12 members for and two against on Wednesday evening, after more than four hours of debate. Auburn ward councillor Sabrin Farooqui spoke in favour of rescinding the ban. "As a follower of Islam, I can say that no-one is stopping me from following my religion in Australia," she said. "Similarly, I can't enforce my belief on someone else. Australia is a secular country." (15 May 2024)
Read more at ABC News

NSW: Christian Brothers High School in Lewisham has demolished an eight-unit apartment building and a house in order to expand and redevelop its grounds. A report carried out by Inner West Council assessment officers recommended the application be refused with "loss of existing affordable rental housing" listed as one reason why. However, an independent local planning panel disagreed and eventually approved the application. Trustees of Edmund Rice Education Australia own Christian Brothers' High School Lewisham as well as the site of the demolished buildings, and also own multiple properties situated next to other Christian Brothers schools throughout the state. (15 May 2024)
Read more at ABC News

NSW: Lyle Shelton, the former Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, will be the lead senate candidate in New South Wales for the Family First party. Shelton is currently the party’s Executive Director. He was their lead candidate for the NSW Legislative Council in 2023 where he received over 58,000 votes, falling well short of the amount of support needed to join parliament. (16 May 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

WA: Bunbury PFLAG mum, Hazel Wood, is calling on the Western Australian government to reinstate the Inclusive Education WA strategy after former Premier Mark McGowan stopped funding in 2020. Wood said the she was concerned by the increasing anti-LGBTIQA+ commentary coming out of right-wing candidates for the next election. "It’s going to be much worse than the postal plebiscite in 2016, with One Nation and some Liberals already targeting trans kids as part of their campaign rhetoric," she said. (16 May 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

Commentary and Analysis

Dale Boccabella and Ranjana Gupta: Australian churches collectively raise billions of dollars a year – why aren’t they taxed?
"Back in an age where nonprofits were mainly small and focused on addressing the needs of people failed by the market, the income tax exemption for such charities appeared appropriate. But in the modern era, some charities – including some churches – operate huge business enterprises and collect rent on extensive property holdings. Many are now questioning whether we should continue offering them an uncapped exemption from income tax, especially where there are questions surrounding how appropriately these profits are used." (6 May 2024)
Read more at The Conversation

Michelle Pini: Same-sex parenting book-ban today, world domination tomorrow
"Indeed, in the special Far-Right universe inhabited by people like Steve Christou, Donald Trump, Pauline Hanson and Peter Dutton, everything that doesn’t conform to the narrowest possible conservative measure needs to be opposed at all costs. This includes but is not limited to: LGBTIQ+ rights; Indigenous rights; anything that advances women; poor people; refugees; non-Anglo migrants and the downtrodden in general. Of course, as the reversal of Roe v Wade in the U.S. proves, the seemingly infinite capacity of those wishing to undermine the rights of anyone choosing a path not wholly aligned with their own – usually conservative and often religious-based – beliefs should never be underestimated. And today, like the true Americanophiles we are increasingly becoming, an Australian local council has banned books it doesn’t like." (10 May 2024)
Read more at Independent Australia

Patricia Karvelas: The Cumberland City Council book ban threatens to erase queer families. It’s a threat that deserves a serious response
'My first instinct was to laugh at the absurdity of a council trying to be the morality police and ban books that show the diversity of families that have legal status in our country. But there is something more deeply troubling about this and this week we saw political leaders stand up against the absurdity and call it for what it is. The use of multiculturalism as a weapon against gay and lesbian families was what struck me as the most dangerous. In a country where migrants are expected to fit in, the one exception we seem to be happy to make is when it comes to the acceptance of gay people and their families. In this instance, multiculturalism and religion were used like a sword to humiliate rainbow families and erase them." (13 May 2024)
Read more at ABC News

Bert Hetebry: Stop funding hate!
"I really think we need to address out concerns to our parliamentary representatives before the Religious Discrimination bill resurfaces for a vote. And we need to address the funding of these organisations which demand taxpayer funding for undermining the basic human rights we have written into law over the past thirty or so years, the legal right to safe abortions, the legal right to be who we are in our sexual self-definition, the legal right to determine that when our end of life suffering becomes unbearable... We need to urge our representatives to reject that bill, to not wind the clock back to a time when religions suppressed human rights, criminalised those who for no fault of their own were different. We need to deny funding to schools which do not uphold the human rights we have fought for and have enshrined in our laws." (14 May 2024)
Read more at the AIMN

Renae Barker: Catholic teaching or “woke” ideology? Archbishop Porteous’s false dichotomy repeats the mistakes of the past
"'God created male and female as sexually complimentary. This means that, sexually speaking, we have literally been made for the opposite sex. He intended that man and woman would be drawn to each other, desire a life-long union in marriage...' This is no less an ideological position, previously imposed by legislation, than that the one which the Archbishop derides as being promoted by what he refers to as the ''woke' movement' and the 'radicalised transgender lobby'. Just because you may agree or disagree with a particular ideological position based on your own worldview or religious beliefs does not make it either neutral or inherently right or wrong. Differing ideologies are simply that — different." (15 May 2024)
Read more at ABC Religion & Ethics

Julia Baird: Sorry for the pile-on, ScoMo and Trump, but by Jesus, you send women a warped view of religion
"The photo of Trump and Morrison was a neat depiction of the brotherhood of Christian nationalism, and a reminder of why so many people outside the church associate Christianity with conservatism and a pursuit of power, even now with men like Trump whose alleged lovers tell courts they don’t like wearing condoms when they cheat on their wives, but proudly, strategically take credit for the Supreme Court’s dismantling of women’s reproductive rights. Who hurl slurs at opponents, condemn foreigners and turn backs on migrants. Who don’t appear to have, say, read the Bible, the whole 'do unto others as they would do unto you' and look-after-the poor-and-the-vulnerable stuff." (17 May 2024)
Read more at The Age

Events and Campaigns

Equality Australia is running a petition calling for Cumberland Council to reverse its ban on books depicting LGBTI families.
Learn more at Equality Australia

Griffith University researchers are exploring Registered Nurses’ and Nurse Practitioners’ willingness to participate in Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD).
Read more at The Lamp

Support Independent MP Kate Chaney's proposed laws dealing with the “telehealth problem” preventing access to timely voluntary assisted dying across the country. Contact your federal MP and senators here.

The Australia Institute are calling on federal parliament to pass truth in political advertising laws that are nationally consistent, constitutional and uphold freedom of speech. View the petition at The Australia Institute

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

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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