Weekend Wrap for 21 April 2024

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 21 April 2024, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

Videos from the Secularism Australia Conference 2023 are now available. The NSL was a proud co-organiser and co-sponsor of this event.

If you're not already following us on social media, please consider dropping by our pages on Twitter, Facebook and Mastodon!

Do you know someone who might be interested in the stories in our Wrap mailouts? Use the "Forward this email to a friend" link at the bottom of the email.

At the National Level

Three of Sydney’s wealthiest private schools received double the federal funding they were entitled to last year under the official resource standard, new data shows, despite the introduction of reforms to tackle overfunding. Under the school funding agreement, struck in 2019, the commonwealth is meant to contribute 80% of the schooling resource standard for private schools, while state and territory governments are responsible for the remaining 20%. The split is reversed for public schools. Figures outlined in a Senate estimates briefing released under freedom of information legislation show four in 10 (1,150) private schools were overfunded by the commonwealth in excess of the agreed 80% level last year, to the tune of $2.5bn. (17 Apr 2024)
Read more at The Guardian

Around the Country

WA: Western Australians will no longer have to undergo medical or surgical reassignment in order to change their sex or gender, under the state government's proposed law reforms. The state's Gender Reassignment Board, which manages applications to legally change a person's gender, would be abolished under the new laws. Attorney-General John Quigley said the legislation would bring WA in line with the rest of Australia. However, it was also revealed that reforms to the state’s equal opportunity laws would not occur until after the 2025 state election, supposedly because the Cook Government is waiting on movement in the same area by the Albanese government at the federal level. (16 Apr 2024)
Read more at ABC News

WA: The Archbishop of Perth has been accused of 'condoning' the scandal-plagued Christian Brothers’ refusal to appear before a parliamentary committee examining supports available to victims of institutional abuse. Labor MP and committee member Dave Kelly also said the Christian Brothers had been paying victims for up to 20 years, but had 'declined all invitations' to contact students who were taught, or came into contact, with the deceased paedophile so that they could access the National Redress Scheme. (17 Apr 2024)
Read more at The Western Australian

NSW: A Muslim community leader has questioned whether NSW public high schools are doing enough to guard against extremism among students after he discovered his 12-year-old child was attending a prayer group without his consent in breach of departmental policies. Refugee advocate Jamal Daoud discovered his child was participating in the prayer group run by a Muslim leader at a western Sydney high school without his knowledge in late 2022. (20 Apr 2024)
Read more at The Age

Commentary and Analysis

Professor Lucas Lixinski: Explainer: What is happening with religious discrimination laws in Australia?
"On 21 March 2024, the Australian Government released a December 2023 report from the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) on religious educational institutions and anti-discrimination laws. The release aligns with signals from the federal government that it intends to fulfill one of its election promises: to attempt to legislate on the protection of religious freedoms in Australia. In this explainer, Professor Lucas Lixinski, Associate Dean (International) at UNSW Sydney’s Faculty of Law & Justice and an Associate of the Australian Human Rights Institute, discusses the report and its implications for communities of faith and LGBTIQ+ individuals and communities." (26 Mar 2024)
Read more at the University of NSW

Neil Foster: Religious Freedom and the NSW Conversion Practices Ban Act 2024.
"I have prepared a paper exploring the operation of the NSW Conversion Practices Ban Act 2024 in relation to the freedom of churches and other religious groups to continue to provide teaching and guidance based on the tenets of their faith. The Act has received assent but will not commence operation until 3 April 2025. Overall, the Act contains much better protections for religious freedom and the welfare of vulnerable children and young people than similar legislation elsewhere. But there are some areas where it is not clear, and it will require careful consideration by religious groups, as well those interested in so-called 'gender transition' issues even from a non-religious background." (14 Apr 2024)
Read more at Law and Religion Australia

Francis Sullivan: Pope Francis has abandoned transgender Catholics.
"In a recent official Declaration on Human Dignity, Dignitas Infinita, the Pope has endorsed a document that effectively outlaws sex change for transgender Catholics. The Declaration is both harsh and unrelenting in its tone, dismissive of new science and judgemental of those Catholics who in good faith make life choices contrary to the edicts of the Church. Nothing new here, but just another slap in the face for people who seek to live their God given lives as authentically and honestly as possible." (16 Apr 2024)
Read more at Pearls & Irritations

Patrick Parkinson (Freedom for Faith): A bipartisan approach to religious freedom is possible — it involves the recovery of a fundamental human right.
"After years of promises to protect religious freedom made by both sides of federal politics, last month Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has asked the Coalition to work with the government to pass a Religious Discrimination Bill and remove exemptions currently contained in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 for faith-based schools. Failing agreement, the Prime Minister said he is open to getting the legislation through the Senate with support of the Greens — but at the risk of deepening the divisions between many people of faith and the left side of politics. There are, in fact, solid arguments in favour of a bipartisan deal. This is not just about appeasing the churches. If the issues are properly understood, some LGBTIQ+ organisations and secular women’s groups ought to be strongly in support of the freedom of religious organisations to maintain their identity and ethos, for their freedoms also are under threat. Not only have changes made to the Sex Discrimination Act in 2013 under the last Labor government led to arguments over exemptions for faith-based schools and other religious bodies, they have also precipitated sharp divisions among LGBTIQ+ communities and women’s organisations, as have similar changes made to the law at state and territory level." (17 Apr 2024)
Read more at ABC Religion & Ethics

Henry Rajendra (NSW Teachers Federation): The stakes are too high for complacency.
"The need to comprehensively overhaul the NSW public school system has never been more urgent. Our mandate, to provide a comprehensive, free and secular education to every student — not some — is under significant pressure and we are fighting for our collective values. 'The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,' said Czech writer Milan Kundera. We’re reminded that our fight to salvage and underpin public schools is also a struggle to preserve our collective memory of what comprehensive public education can and should be." (19 Apr 2024)
Read more at the NSW Teachers Federation

Events and Campaigns

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!

Until next time, please follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Mastodon.

And if you are able, please consider making a small monthly contribution to the NSL to help us raise the secular profile in Australia. Every dollar helps!