Weekend Wrap for 23 June 2024

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 23 June 2024, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

The full videos of presentations and panel discussions from the 2023 Secularism Australia Conference are now freely available for viewing on the Secularism Australia website and on YouTube!

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At the National Level

Political reporter Amy Remeikis, speaking on two years of an Albanese government, noted that in terms of the religious discrimination legislation, "The Greens want to negotiate with the government; the government keeps going to the Coalition even though they are diametrically opposed over what needs to happen with that legislation." She suggested that Labor are trying to "circumvent the Crossbench in the Senate on particular pieces of legislation because the Crossbench would make them go further then perhaps Labor is comfortable with." (18 Jun 2024)
Listen to this story at ABC (at the 16 minute mark)

Around the Country

TAS: Equality Tasmania has condemned a letter from Tasmanian Health Minister, Guy Barnett, to Federal Health Minister, Mark Butler, recommending consideration of a review of health care for young trans and gender diverse people. They say the move from Barnett is unnecessary, harmful and a broken election promise. Tasmania’s Health Minister wrote to his federal counterpart suggesting an Australian review was needed in the wake of the United Kingdom’s Cass Review. Rodney Croome from Equality Tasmania said, “There is no need for an inquiry into gender health care for young people in the wake of the UK review because Australian gender services already take the individualised and multi-disciplinary approach recommended by the UK review.” (16 Jun 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

TAS: Tasmania's Catholic Archbishop, Julian Porteous, is retiring, after having turned 75 — the age at which a bishop must step down. Since being installed by the late Cardinal George Pell in 2013, Archbishop Porteous has been an outspoken contributor to public debates — on issues including same-sex marriage, abortion, and religious discrimination laws, and has often spoken and written about "threats to religious freedom". In April this year, Archbishop Porteous told the Church and State conference in Hobart that "bit by bit through legislation, attempts are being made to silence the Christian voice and make our institutions comply with the LGBTQI agenda". (17 Jun 2024)
Read more at ABC News

VIC: An assessment of the condition of each of Victoria’s public schools will stay confidential because, the Education Department argues, releasing reports on each one could harm some schools’ reputation. The department’s decision has infuriated the state opposition, which has accused the Allan government of avoiding scrutiny and hiding behind Victoria’s long-criticised freedom-of-information laws. (17 Jun 2024)
Read more at The Age

NSW: Education minister Prue Car has defended the Special Religious Education (SRE) program in a formal response to a 1500-strong petition on the state parliament’s website that called for the Minns government to move the program outside class time. Increasing numbers of students in public schools – and large majorities in some – have to find other activities when religious missionaries take over classrooms for up to an hour a week to provide scripture for some of their classmates. Minister Car, in a letter to Helen Minnican, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, said the government was supportive and committed to SRE and the Special Education in Ethics (SEE) program. Minister Car labelled “homework” as a “meaningful activity” for students to do at school when religious scripture classes interrupt their normal learning time. (19 Jun 2024)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

NSW: Members of the Muslim community have lashed the Minns government’s controversial solution to Sydney’s cemeteries crisis, saying it is “privatisation by stealth” and that the faith was losing “control over its own destiny”. The Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria Trust Bill 2024 is Lands and Property Minister Steve Kamper’s solution to the vexed problem of the looming demand for burial plots, and the legislation passed the lower house of parliament on Tuesday night after the budget was handed down. The Catholic Church will retain control over five cemeteries on crown lands. Kamper’s solution to the political paralysis has been condemned by parts of the cemetery sector, with accusations the legislation will give “control of essential social infrastructure to the Catholic Church”. (19 Jun 2024)
Read more at The Age

VIC: Victoria’s high-fee private schools will pay the state government more in taxes than they get in state funding, as analysis from the opposition reveals the financial hit to elite schools from losing payroll tax exemption. (This does not count funding from the Commonwealth, which is responsible for providing 80 per cent of government cash to private schools.) States are responsible for 20 per cent of government funding for private schools, but the opposition analysis found most of the highest-fee schools did not get to keep it. On Tuesday, a Victorian government spokeswoman said more than 90 per cent of private schools remained exempt from payroll tax. (19 Jun 2024)
Read more at The Age

NSW: Nestled at the southern end of Manly on Sydney's Northern Beaches is a small patch of houses known locally by the beach they look out over — Fairy Bower. It's mostly owned by the Catholic Church. 60 acres of land in Manly's North Head was given to the Catholic Church around 1850 to build housing for their bishops, and they now lease these properties out for millions of dollars. Housing spokesperson for the federal Greens, Max Chandler-Mather said the church was acting as a "for-profit developer". "The church receives tax exemption status on the basis that they are a charitable organisation, yet here we have an example of the church behaving like any other for-profit developer, making money off surging land and property prices," he said. (21 Jun 2024)
Read more at ABC News

Commentary and Analysis

Elise Christian: I stuck up for students even teachers called ‘satanic’. It cost me my job
"The incidents I witnessed included homophobic slurs, graphic drawings depicting physical violence towards LGBTIQA+ people, and religiously worded accusations and threats – for example, that the student being targeted was 'demon possessed' and 'going to hell because God hated them'. The incidents seriously affected the wellbeing of this student, and I felt that I had no choice but to adopt extra supervision measures to prioritise their safety. Even though I documented each of these incidents and passed on my reports to the appropriate staff members, the students who were leading the bullying were allowed to continue for some weeks with no meaningful intervention. When they were finally interviewed by the school executive, they defended themselves by saying, 'but I was just telling them what the Bible says'. Once my supervising teachers became aware that I was documenting these incidents, my duties were suddenly changed, and I was warned of negative consequences if I  'overstepped my role'." (17 Jun 2024)
Read more at The Age

Emma Leitch: Finding God’s image in LGBTQIA+ people: Why I took legal action against Citipointe Christian College
"Our family had a 16-year association with Citipointe in 2022. All three of our children attended Citipointe Christian College from prep or grade 1 through to grade 12. We valued the college for its Christian ethos, caring environment, and academic excellence. As practising Christians, we also wanted our children’s education to take place in a faith-based environment. But the proposed enrolment contract did not align with our Christian faith — for we believe that God welcomes all people, regardless of sexuality or gender identity. ... For my husband and me, this mandate to love and care for the oppressed encompasses a call to care for the most vulnerable students in our faith-based schools — those whose sexuality and/or gender identity is diverse. Our duty of care to vulnerable students in our schools must be prioritised over particular doctrines or contested interpretations of scripture." (17 Jun 2024)
Read more at ABC Religion & Ethics

Events and Campaigns

Join Andrew West and a panel of experts for a special recording of ABC RN's The Religion & Ethics Report, on Thursday June 27, 2024. The focus of the program will be educating a diverse Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Catholic education system is the largest provider of learning outside of Australia's government schools — and enrolments into Catholic schools continue to grow. But within the schools themselves, over 40 per cent of students who attend are, in fact, not Catholic. So why do parents — religious and non-religious — decide to send their children to religious schools? The recording will take place from from 5:45pm to 7pm in the Civic Gallery in PHIVE, Parramatta Square.
Learn more and register at ABC Religion & Ethics

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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