Weekend Wrap for 21 May 2023

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 21 May 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

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At the National Level

According to a YouGov survey carried out in April, when given the statement, "An Australian republic should be entirely secular and not provide taxpayer-funded grants, tax exemptions, as well as exceptions to discrimination law for religious groups," 24 per cent supported existing religious privileges, 53 per cent opposed existing religious privileges, and 23 per cent weren't sure. (15 May 2023)
Read more at the Secular Association of NSW

The Coalition’s new legal affairs spokeswoman, Michaelia Cash, says Labor must “go back to the drawing board” on religious discrimination laws and the Australian Law Reform Commission’s proposal put forward in January “fatally undermines” the ability of faith-based schools to promote their religious ethos. It follows religious leaders venting frustrations at the eight-month delay in the ALRC process – described by Labor as the “first crucial step” in progressing religious discrimination legislation this term – with its final report now due to be handed to government in December. (15 May 2023)
Read more at The Australian

Anglicare has been urged to immediately review its response to allegations of sexual abuse after a royal commission found it failed to report a woman’s assault to police and did not undertake a proper investigation. The organisation accepted the six findings made by the royal commission in the report, released on Tuesday, which found it did not conduct a comprehensive internal investigation, failed to follow mandatory reporting procedures and placed the burden of reporting on the victim and her parents. (16 May 2023)
Read more at The Guardian

A Centre for Independent Studies YouGov poll of 2,200 people has found that 57% of Australians do not agree that faith-based schools, hospitals and welfare organisations should have the right to discriminate on faith and lifestyle in their hiring practices. There was also a general view that in this case, staff should not have the freedom to wilfully act against their employer's ethos. (17 May 2023)
Listen to the report at ABC Religion & Ethics

The Albanese Government has announced that it will help protect "Faith-Based Places" with a new $40 million grants program to improve security and safety. Grants will be available for places of worship, religious schools and associated organisations to support safety upgrades, such as fencing, lighting, security cameras, traffic barriers, alarm systems, access controls and security guards. (17 May 2023)
Read more at J-Wire

Enrolments in private schools across Australia have grown by 35 per cent over the past decade, fuelled by a surge in student numbers in Islamic and Christian schools. Islamic school enrolments doubled to 46,278 between 2012 and 2022 while Christian schools grew by 50 per cent to 82,779 over the same period. Enrolments in non-religious private schools also grew by 38 per cent to 100,067 students. The total share of students attending private schools has risen from 4.1 per cent in 1970 to 17.1 per cent of pupils by last year. (18 May 2023)
Read more at The Age

Around the Country

TAS: Concerns have been raised that the resignation of Bass MHA Lara Alexander from the Liberal Party will further impact the upcoming conversion therapy ban bill, which was due to be introduced earlier this year but which was delayed after Ms Alexander introduced a petition against it. (13 May 2023)
Read more at The Examiner

VIC: Councils across Victoria hosted an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the growing crisis of far-right groups targeting LGBTQ+ events after another drag storytime was cancelled this week. The latest decisions mean at least 10 LGBTQ+ events across Victoria have been cancelled or postponed in the past six months after being targeted by far-right groups. The Greens on Tuesday introduced a bill to the parliament’s upper house that would amend the state’s anti-vilification laws to protect people on the grounds of their gender, sexuality, HIV status or disability. (16 May 2023)
Read more at The Guardian

NSW: A Catholic trust that is responsible for some of Sydney’s largest burial grounds has refused to open its books to the NSW auditor-general amid a long-running stoush over the church’s control of public land. A former Coalition minister ordered an audit of the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust’s (CMCT) finances to ensure they had been “used for their proper purpose”, but the requests were repeatedly refused in part due to the church’s concerns over exposing itself to paying increased tax. (17 May 2023)
Read more at The Age

VIC: The Victorian Parliament on Tuesday voted down a Greens MP’s motion to introduce a new bill to expand the state’s anti-vilification laws to protect LGBTQ communities. Liberal MPs in the legislative assembly voted in favour of the bill introduced by Richmond Greens MP Gabrielle de Vietri. However, the Labor government, which has said it will bring in its own bill after consultations, voted against the motion. Greens slammed the delay pointing to rising incidents of fringe far-right groups and neo-Nazis targeting LGBTQI communities and public drag performances. (17 May 2023)
Read more at the Star Observer

QLD: According to prospectus material discovered online, Rochedale State School in Brisbane asks its pupils to observe a prayer ritual each week at a whole-school assembly in which the students 'commend themselves into God's hands'. (18 May 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

ACT: Andrew Barr’s takeover of Canberra’s Calvary Hospital will create a dangerous precedent and pave the way for government intervention in other faith-based community services such as schools, according to new warnings from religious leaders and Catholic ­educators. The ACT chief minister’s decision last week to introduce legislation allowing the takeover of Calvary Hospital in Bruce – which is currently being run by a Catholic provider – has sparked outrage among faith communities and MPs, including Peter Dutton. Member for the ACT seat of Bean, David Smith, on Thursday became the first government MP to criticise the move, which he said had been made without sufficient consultation. (18 May 2023)
Read more at The Australian

NSW: Sydney MP Alex Greenwich will launch defamation action against Mark Latham after the NSW One Nation leader refused to apologise for a series of homophobic and sexualised slurs. “Although it’s vexed, the issue here is not just that Latham called a political opponent homosexual, the language he used to do so is language which encouraged the public to hate someone and subject someone to hatred and contempt is a test of whether something is defamatory,” said University of Western Australia law professor Michael Douglas." (18 May 2023)
Read more at The Age

Commentary and Analysis

Anthony Klan: NSW ICAC finds disturbing details of Liberal Party's far-Right faction.
"Charles Perrottet, Jean-Claude Perrottet, Whitelaw and Liberal powerbroker Christian Ellis are alleged to be key figures in the far-Right NSW Reformers, a secretive fundamentalist Christian group within the NSW Liberal Party allegedly created to influence “public policy”, including by stacking local councils. ... One since-deleted webpage says Christian Ellis created the group in 2018 as a ‘voice within the Liberal Party’ to ‘work as a united and coordinated Christian voice’ to ‘reform this great state’, including by having hard-Right policies around abortion ‘reflected in public policy’. It says: ‘For years, we have seen the slow erosion of [Christian] values... as such we seek to reform this great state by adding a Christian voice to it.’" (16 May 2023)
Read more at Independent Australia

Paul Gregoire: Minns, Time to De-Christianise Parliament in Multifaith/Nonreligous NSW, Say Rationalists and Greens.
"The March state election saw Catholic premier Dominic Perrottet hand over the reins of NSW top minister to current Catholic premier Chris Minns, who is now set to establish a multifaith religious advisory group to parliament with a direct line to the multicultural affairs minister. ... However, the Rationalist Society of Australia (RSA) wrote to Minns and multicultural minister Steve Kamper on commencement of the 58th NSW parliament last week, suggesting that, in line with the state’s social makeup, reciting the Lord’s Prayer to begin each sitting day be abolished. While on the second sitting day of the new parliament, NSW Greens MLC Abigail Boyd moved a motion calling on the Procedure Committee to inquire into alternatives to reciting the Lord’s Prayer, which could involve a minute’s silence, a statement of duty or simply abolishing the practice." (16 May 2023)
Read more at Sydney Criminal Lawyers

Joanna Howe: The ACT’s takeover of Calvary Hospital overrides conscientious objection and threatens religious freedom.
"The ACT government asserts that its decision has nothing to do with religion, stating that negotiations with Calvary had broken down because they had been unable to reach an outcome that met the health needs of the Territory community. Reading between the lines, however, this compulsory acquisition is because Calvary Hospital and the ACT government had a fundamental disagreement over the definition of healthcare. For the government, the provision of abortion is non-negotiable, whereas Calvary Hospital relies on institutional conscientious objection to refrain from participating in abortion based on the conviction that it is morally wrong to intentionally end a human life. In my view, the decision to compulsorily acquire Calvary Hospital is driven by ideology and not efficiency, as the Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith asserts. Walter Abheyeratna, the ACT president of the Australian Medical Association, acknowledged as much when he said it was important to deliver public healthcare services without being bound by ideology." (17 May 2023)
Read more at ABC Religion & Ethics

Louise Talbot: Israel Folau doco examines how a legend became an outcast.
"Simply titled Folau, the two-part ABC documentary tracks the talented footballer from his humble Tongan upbringing in western Sydney to superstardom across three codes (NRL, AFL and rugby union) to his dismissal by Rugby Australia, after posting Bible verses widely perceived as homophobic on social media. 'The clash of rights interested me – the freedom of right to express versus the freedom of the right to live free from vilification,' [says Australian filmmaker Nel Minchin]. 'I was also interested in the workplace conversation as well, how far employers can reasonably go to control your own personal social media as well, and of course, the bigger conversation about the role of religion in society.'" (17 May 2023)
Read more at Independent Australia

David Smith: ‘Why do pastors keep falling?’: inside the shocking downfall of Hillsong church.
"The Secrets of Hillsong
gives a voice to survivors and victims. For all its modernity, the church was corrosively traditional in its attitudes toward women, people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community. Senior positions were dominated by white men. Five female congregants in New York wrote a letter in 2017 alleging inappropriate sexual behaviour between staff and interns; all five have since departed. In 2015 a royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse found that Houston had failed to alert police about allegations his father, Frank, had sexually assaulted children. Houston has pleaded not guilty to a charge of concealing the crime until his father’s death in 2004. The case remains before the courts, with hearings to resume next month." (19 May 2023)
Read more at The Guardian

Angela Shanahan: Surgical strike on ACT’s Calvary hospital blows up in minister’s face.
"One thing about this imbroglio is that it has many strands, ideological, legal and, more important, practical. This is not the first time the ACT government has tried to take over Calvary Public Hospital. In 2010 the first attempt was thwarted, largely by the public outcry and stonewalling by the board. The explicit motivation was to get the Catholic Church out of healthcare and offer 'the full suite of fertility services', meaning abortion and sterilisation. The current government also brought up this issue in a recent ACT report that called Calvary’s ethics 'problematic'. ... Although Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith speaks basically to the government’s own constituents, she is adamant that this is not about religion or Catholic ethics, although the question of what will happen to the Catholic-run hospice in the case of voluntary assisted dying is of concern to many in Canberra." (20 May 2023)
Read more at The Australian

Events and Campaigns

An upcoming SBS documentary sees Walkley Award-winning journalist Marc Fennell return to the world of Pentecostalism – 17 years after he ran away from the religious movement. In the show, the self-professed “dirty heathen” investigates how Australia produced one of the world’s most successful and scandal-plagued megachurches, Hillsong. The Kingdom premieres on June 8 on SBS On Demand and June 11 on SBS at 7.30pm.
Read more at the New Daily

Equality Australia are running a petition calling on the Federal Government and all remaining states and territories to remove unnecessary legal carve-outs for religious schools and organisations and ensure laws protect everyone equally.
Read and sign the petition at Equality Australia

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

Just.Equal has created a tool to enable people to email Tasmanian MPs to urge them to support the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute's proposal to prohibit conversion practices.
View the tool at Just.Equal

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.
View the petition at change.org

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.

That's it for another week!

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