Weekend Wrap for 19 November 2023

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 19 November 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

The NSL is a co-sponsor and co-organiser of the first Secularism Australia Conference, to be held on 2nd December 2023 in Sydney. Visit the conference website to find out more about the speakers and buy your tickets!

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At the National Level

The Albanese government will overhaul a draft bill targeting misinformation and disinformation online after strong pushback against the proposal. It will also delay introducing the legislation into parliament until 2024. Reaction to the bill claimed that it would stifle speech online, and would not protect religious speech in particular. Communications minister, Michelle Rowland, said that the government "is considering refinements to the bill, including to definitions, exemptions and clarification on religious freedom, among other things.” (13 Nov 2023)
Read more at The Guardian

An abuse survivor who will potentially receive one of Australia's largest-ever compensation payouts from the Catholic Church says it is a "mind-blowing" victory he hopes will give other survivors a "sense of hope". The civil case verdict in Victoria's Supreme Court last Friday related to child sex abuse committed by convicted paedophile priest Vincent Kiss in the 1960s and 70s. The victim's solicitor, Kim Price, said the verdict could set a precedent for other survivors of abuse. "This is a clear verdict from the courts that the church will be held accountable for abuse and damage that hundreds or thousands of people have suffered," he said. (13 Nov 2023)
Read more at ABC News

Queen Elizabeth II expressed “much sympathy” with governor-general Peter Hollingworth in response to mounting criticism over how he handled child sexual abuse claims while he was Anglican archbishop of ­Brisbane, once secret vice-regal letters ­reveal. The queen commiserated with Dr Hollingworth after he forwarded his statement regarding civil action taken against the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane by a victim of sexual abuse at Toowoomba Preparatory School in 1990. The Queensland Supreme Court ruled that the diocese failed its duty of care and was ordered to pay compensation. Dr Hollingworth denied covering up abuse but earlier this year an Anglican Church ­tribunal found him guilty of widespread misconduct. Dr Hollingworth wrote repeatedly to the queen during 2001 and 2002, claiming that he was an innocent victim of a ­campaign mounted by the media and activists. (13 Nov 2023)
Read more at The Australian

The independent MP Kate Chaney will push to amend federal laws that ban telecommunications services from being used to incite suicide, so that patients wishing to access voluntary assisted dying appointments can do so via telehealth. Federal legislation prevents anyone seeking information or advice about voluntary assisted dying from a health professional over an electronic carriage service, ruling out telehealth consults for assistance. Doctors and advocates for voluntary assisted dying have long been calling for changes to the law, saying it makes it difficult for patients who live in rural and remote areas, and those whose conditions limit their movement or make travel painful, to attend appointments. (14 Nov 2023)
Read more at The Guardian

The Australian senate has knocked back Liberal senator Alex Antic’s bill that called for a ban of medical treatment of transgender youth. Senator Antic attempted to have the bill sent to a committee for a public inquiry, but the move was opposed by the Greens, Labor, members of the cross bench, and many Liberal senators were absent for the vote. The Childhood Gender Transition Prohibition Bill 2023 was introduced by Senator Antic in October with support from fellow Liberal Matt Canavan and United Australia Party senator Ralph Babet. (16 Nov 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth

Around the Country

NSW: The NSW government is moving to tighten laws against hate speech, threats and incitement to violence amid concerns criminal provisions introduced five years ago have not resulted in any successful prosecutions. The Jewish Board of Deputies, along with other groups including Faith NSW, have lobbied Premier Chris Minns and the government about laws they have described as “ineffective and impotent”. (11 Nov 2023)
Read more at The Age

WA: Stephen Dawson, Western Australia’s Minister for Minister for Emergency Services; Innovation and the Digital Economy; Medical Research and Volunteering says it’s “scandalous” that the state’s Equal Opportunity laws allow teachers to be sacked over their sexuality, and school students to be expelled. The State’s Attorney General, John Quigley, has recently given a long list of reasons why the legislation has not been updated. Most recently a spokesperson for the minister flagged that the new laws may not be able to proceed until after an update of federal laws was undertaken by the Albanese government, a claim that has been called out by rights advocates and equal opportunity experts. (12 Nov 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth

WA: Premier Roger Cook won’t commit to updating Western Australia’s outdated Equal Opportunities laws before the 2025 state election. The premier denied he’d “fobbed off” the reforms fearing a debate with faith leaders over the issue. The premier said he would continue to work with Attorney General John Quigley about a pathway for the legislation, but acknowledged there was concern within government ranks about the introduction of the laws. (15 Nov 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth

NSW: A Muslim religious leader, who has a history of making anti-LGBTIQA+ comments, has been appointed to New South Wales faith council, which brings together nineteen different religious leaders to provide advice to the government. In 2013, Imam Shadi Alsuleiman delivered a sermon where he accused members of the LGBTIQA+ communities, and people who had sex outside of marriage, of spreading diseases. In his sermon the religious leader described such behaviour as “evil actions”. (15 Nov 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth

VIC: Shepparton Library in Victoria has cancelled a planned Drag Storytime event after it was targeted by protesters. The children’s event was scheduled for Thursday but it was called off after protesters visited the Library on Sunday and staff were forced to lock the facilities doors and call-in police. Goulburn Valley Libraries chief executive Felicity Macchion told the ABC that the decision was made because it was “deemed too unsafe to hold the event”. (16 Nov 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth

NSW: Three of NSW’s largest religious aged care providers will not provide voluntary assisted dying services to residents when the state’s VAD laws become effective on 28 November 2023. Calvary Health Care, which has 16 aged care homes NSW, will not offer voluntary assisted dying (VAD) to NSW consumers when the state becomes the last in Australia to allow terminally ill people to choose the timing of their death. Anglicare, one of NSW’s largest aged care providers with 23 facilities, said they are “opposed to physician-assisted suicide in any form and is instead committed to providing life-affirming care and choice, including palliative care that supports a person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.” A spokesperson for St Vincent's Care Services, which operates residential aged care facilities in QLD, NSW, and VIC (six in NSW), said that they don't provide VAD, but they “respect resident choice” so will not “block or impede” a resident's access to the service. (16 Nov 2023)
Read more at The Weekly Source

NSW: A powerful multi-faith lobby group launched by New South Wales Premier Chris Minns last month will urge the state’s new Faith Affairs Council to advocate against gay conversion laws that would affect the freedom of religious communities to practise their faith. When asked on Christian radio last month what his community-based lobby Faith NSW would recommend in relation to proposed laws on gay conversion practices, the group’s head Murray Norman said members of Faith NSW agreed on the need to be able to practise their faith. In the interview on 20Twenty show on Christian Vision radio, Mr Norman also explained that Faith NSW would make policy recommendations directly to the Faith Affairs Council, which would then advocate policy positions to government ministers. (16 Nov 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

TAS: The state government has confirmed that legislation to ban gay conversion therapy in Tasmania will not be introduced this year. A spokesperson for the government said consultation on the ban is still ongoing and they want to ensure that the legislation is correct before introducing it. A “deeply disappointed” Equality Tasmania has called on the government to fulfil its commitment to table the legislation before the end of the year. Victoria, Queensland and the ACT have already banned conversion practices, while the governments of NSW, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory have committed to doing the same. (16 Nov 2023)
Read more at Pulse Hobart

VIC: Victoria’s Jewish and Islamic schools will get cash to bolster security and the state Labor government will fund community groups to combat antisemitism and Islamophobia. On Saturday morning, the government announced an $8 million investment to ensure communities feel “safe, welcome and celebrated” with Jewish and Islamic schools to share in $2 million to improve security. The government’s funding package will give the state’s 27 independent Jewish and Islamic schools $20,000 each to install measures such as improved fencing, alarms and CCTV. They will also be able to claim costs for additional security. 18 Nov 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

Commentary and Analysis

Matthew Knott: ‘It’s off the charts’: How antisemitism surged after October 7
"Throughout the past week in federal parliament, Liberal MP Julian Leeser has done something unusual: worn his kippah. Leeser is proudly Jewish but usually wears his skullcap only for religious ceremonies and on ceremonial occasions, not to question time. He decided to keep it on this week as an act of defiance, as a message to Jewish Australians that they should not be cowed into hiding their identity amid a national surge in antisemitism. 'I wanted to wear it because I don’t believe people should be afraid to express their religious traditions and identities,' the member for the northern Sydney electorate of Berowra says in an interview in his office in Parliament House." (17 Nov 2023)
Read more at The Age

Events and Campaigns

A big thanks to those who signed the Secularism Australia Conference petition requesting the House of Representatives modernise its Standing Orders and replace daily Christian prayers with a more appropriate practice. The petition closed with over 3,000 signatures.

The inaugural Secularism Australia Conference will be held in Sydney on 2 December 2023.
Learn more at the Secularism Australia website

Residents of NSW, there is a petition running that calls on the state parliament to run scripture (SRE) and ethics (SEE) lessons outside class time in NSW public schools.
View the petition at the NSW Parliament House website

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

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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