Weekend Wrap for 22 October 2023

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 22 October 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

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At the National Level

The Australian parliament has united to condemn “all forms of hate speech” including antisemitism and Islamophobia, with the prime minister declaring that the country must not succumb to the “forces of division”. A multi-pronged motion – which included a condemnation of all types of hate speech in Australia – passed the House of Representatives with 134 votes in favour and just four against. (16 Oct 2023)
Read more at The Guardian

Liberal senator Alex Antic has announced he will introduce a private member’s bill calling for a ban on all medical treatment of transgender youth. Under Senator Antic’s proposal people under the age of 18 would only be allowed to change their gender in “exceptional circumstances” that involves people who have “long-diagnosed sexual development disorders”. Senator Antic said he was introducing his bill because of the growing number of young people being treated for gender dysphoria. Senator Antic, who has a legal background, said he believed most people were choosing to transition gender because of pressure from friends or medical professionals, rather than a genuine medical need. (17 Oct 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth

Synagogues and mosques will be given help to upgrade security under a $50 million federal plan to protect communities in the wake of the Hamas terror attack on Israel as parliament divided on the killing of Palestinians in a hospital in Gaza. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton backed the increased spending to shield 177 schools, places of worship and community facilities after a security warning about the danger of spontaneous violence. (18 Oct 2023)
Read more at The Age

Australia's Muslim and Jewish communities are reporting an increase in racial and religious abuse since the Israel-Gaza War began. A lot of people in these communities have family and friends directly in danger in the conflict, and the abuse is adding to their psychological stress. Many of those being targeted are women. (20 Oct 2023)
Listen to the story at ABC News

Faith leaders say spillover from the conflict in the Middle East has made it “blindingly obvious” why the country needs religious freedom laws, raising concerns over the potential for increased prejudice in the wake of the violence. Labor has committed to enshrining religious freedom laws, indicating the “first step” would be a review of the sex discrimination act by the Australian Law ­Reform Commission. Its report is due by the end of the year. A spokesman for Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the government was committed to extending the federal anti-discrimination framework to protect people of faith from discrimination and vilification. (20 Oct 2023)
Read more at The Australian

Around the Country

VIC: The state opposition will back a push from expelled Liberal MP Moira Deeming to set up an inquiry into gender-affirming care for children, though it is unlikely to attract the backing from progressive crossbench parties that it needs to succeed. It calls on the parliament to recognise that “medical affirmation of gender dysphoric children and adolescents is currently one of the most controversial areas of medicine” and that there was not a consensus about the process. Debates about transgender rights have caused ructions in among political parties, highlighting a split between conservative and moderate groups within the Liberals and exposing divisions within the Greens. (17 Oct 2023)
Read more at The Age

VIC: The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) has instructed Ambulance Victoria to reform its hiring policy for chaplaincy roles following advocacy by the Rationalist Society of Australia. Late last month, VEOHRC requested that Ambulance Victoria remove the current requirement that applicants be accredited for religious ministry and also asked that it include a statement in the job description that chaplain roles were “open to applicants of all faiths or religious backgrounds, including those without any religious belief”. (18 Oct 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

NSW: The secret salaries of private school principals will be in the spotlight as the NSW government reviews rules for taxpayer funding of independent schools. Elite private schools, which pay salary packages of up to $1m a year, will be forced to justify pay pack­ages under new guidelines issued on Thursday by NSW Education Minister Prue Car. The guidelines spell out the conditions for taxpayer funding of private schools, which must not operate for profit but can generate surpluses that are reinvested in the schools. (19 Oct 2023)
Read more at The Australian

NSW: Premier Chris Minns and senior members of his government have thrown their support behind the establishment of a new religious lobby that has evolved out of an existing group whose work focused on entrenching scripture classes in public schools. Earlier this month, the Premier and cabinet colleagues spoke at the launch of Faith NSW, described online as a new peak body to advocate the “common interests” of the state’s faith groups. Reports describe Faith NSW as being “also known as Better Balanced Futures”. Faith NSW’s new Chief Executive Officer is Murray Norman, who is also the head of Better Balanced Futures. According to its website, Better Balanced Futures is “committed to engaging with and educating families, parents, communities and carers about the provision and access to Special Religious Education (SRE) in our public schools”. (20 Oct 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

VIC: A report published on Boroondara City Council’s website ahead their upcoming council meeting reveals that, of 326 submissions received as part of a public consultation, 86 per cent called for the removal of prayers. Just 12 per cent opposed the removal of prayers from the council’s Governance Rules. Boroondara City Council undertook a public consultation on the prayer issue after receiving a letter from lawyers acting pro bono for Councillor Victor Franco that cited concerns about human rights and the potential illegalities of including prayer rituals in the Governance Rules. (21 Oct 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Commentary and Analysis

Rodney Croome: After Defeating Voice, LGBTIQA+ Australians Are The Next Target Of No Campaigners
"Empowered by the success of their fear-mongering and division-sowing, No campaigners will turn on us in an attempt to claw back the tolerance we won through marriage equality. We know this because they have told us. Jacinta Price has loudly said that after No wins she will move straight on to excluding trans kids from health care and trans women from women’s spaces. South Australian Liberal Senator Alex Antic, has also flagged a bill banning gender-affirming health care for trans youth. Having mobilised the nation to say No to positive change, other campaigners are eager to return to rolling back discrimination protections in the name of religious freedom, dismantling school inclusion programs and banning books in the name of parental rights." (18 Oct 2023)
Read more at The Star Observer

Events and Campaigns

The Secularism Australia Conference has launched a petition on the Parliament House website requesting the House of Representatives modernise its Standing Orders and replace daily Christian prayers with a more appropriate practice.
View and sign the petition on the APH website.

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

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

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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