Weekend Wrap for 23 October 2022

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 23 October 2022, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

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Do you have any news items, campaigns, petitions, webinars or other event notices that could be added to our weekly Wrap? Let us know at wrap@nsl.org.au.

At the National Level

Religious leaders are urging Anthony Albanese to reverse his opposition to a “statements of belief” clause in religious discrimination legislation which would offer explicit protection for people of faith from being sacked by their employer over voicing their beliefs. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has begun consultations on religious discrimination legislation, with faith leaders expecting a draft bill to be released in the first half of next year. (16 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Australian

The Albanese government has stripped references to West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital from a government website after vowing to reverse the Morrison government’s controversial endorsement. Australia became one of only a few countries to recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2018, following a decision by the Trump administration to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (17 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Age

Foreign Minister Penny Wong insists there has been "no change" to Australia's decision to recognise West Jerusalem as Israel's capital, despite the policy disappearing from her department's website. Labor had long vowed to reverse the move, made under the Morrison government in late 2018, if elected to office. (17 Oct 2022)
Read more at ABC News

Former top Navy chaplain, Collin Acton, who has been publicly advocating for reform of the religious-based pastoral care and wellbeing support provided to Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel, says he has been “forced out” of the military. (18 Oct 2022)
Read more at the Rational Society of Australia

Israel's government has criticised Australia's decision to withdraw recognition of West Jerusalem as the country's capital, summoning Australia's ambassador to lodge a complaint and suggesting the federal government's announcement was rushed and unprofessional. Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on Tuesday morning that the government would reverse the former Coalition government's decision to recognise West Jerusalem, calling it a "cynical" ploy to win electoral support. (18 Oct 2022)
Read more at ABC News

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has apologised to the Jewish community for the way the federal government revealed its decision to no longer recognise West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying the timing of the announcement was “deeply regrettable”. (20 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Age

Churches have been urged to step into the gap left by overstretched mental health services during an online mental health summit hosted by NAYBA Australia, a network helping churches to transform neighbourhoods. Gavin Brown of the Alice Springs Baptist Church said, "It’s all mental health, and we have this fantastic opportunity as the church to really engage in this space, to not see it as the domain of specialists or people that are specifically trained, but that it’s all of us." (20 Oct 2022)
Read more at Eternity News

Around the Country

QLD: The principal of a Queensland religious school interrogated students about whether they knew a teacher was living with her boyfriend, amid concerns the teacher’s “lifestyle” went against its “biblical moral standards”. The English teacher resigned soon after, saying she felt unable to remain at the school. (17 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Guardian

NSW: Controversial NSW upper house MP Reverend Fred Nile has announced his retirement after 41 years in parliament. Reverend Nile founded the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) more than 20 years ago. He has been renowned for campaigning on social issues and has opposed gay marriage, gay adoption, Islamic face coverings and Muslim immigration. (18 Oct 2022)
Read more at ABC News

WA: A petition signed by almost 3,000 members of WA’s LGBTIQA+ community and allies has been presented to politicians at Western Australia’s parliament. It calls on Legislative Council to inform itself of discriminatory laws which cause LGBTIQA+ people “preventable harm and disadvantage”, the petition will be tabled in the Legislative Council. (18 Oct 2022)
Read more at Out in Perth

QLD: Queensland’s education minister, Grace Grace, says she is considering beefing up the powers of the independent schools’ regulator, to ensure students outside the state system are “protected and supported”. On Monday, Guardian Australia revealed the principal of a Gold Coast school, Livingstone Christian college, interviewed several students amid an investigation into whether a teacher had told them she lived with her boyfriend. Grace told Guardian Australia schools should be “warm, welcoming, and supportive environments for students and staff”. (18 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Guardian

NSW: The ABC’s Media Watch program has questioned the ABC’s involvement in ACON’s Pride in Diversity program saying it may cause bias and favourable treatment of LGBTIQA+ issues in news coverage. “The problem here is a media group partnering with and being rewarded by a lobby group — any lobby group. And how that can lead to perceptions of bias in coverage or to bias itself,” host Paul Barry said. (18 Oct 2022)
Read more at Out in Perth

QLD: A woman accused of killing her daughter by actively encouraging her husband to withhold life-saving medicine (opting instead to pray and sing for divine medical intervention) has joined him, along with two others from a fringe Toowoomba religious group, in being ordered to stand trial for murder. A total of 14 people have now been charged in relation to the death. (19 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Age

VIC: Victoria’s opposition leader, Matthew Guy, has committed the Coalition to amending the Equal Opportunity Act to give faith-based schools protection to hire staff who share their values and beliefs if it wins government in November. Guy made the commitment on Monday during a meeting with the Islamic Council of Victoria. (19 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Guardian

QLD: The Catholic Church was a stakeholder at a Queensland housing summit this week as the state government grapples to find crisis accommodation for the vulnerable and marginalised, with under-utilised church-owned properties already identified as a possible source of housing. Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the Brisbane Archdiocese “supports efforts to unlock housing supply for Queenslanders.” (19 Oct 2022)
Read more at the Catholic Leader

TAS: "Equality advocates in Tasmania are pushing for the state government to bring in significant changes to the way the state’s coroner treats people facing often traumatic situations. They argue that in recent years, the coroner has failed to recognise the legal next-of-kin rights same-gender partners in multiple cases, depriving bereaved Tasmanians the right to equality. The Government is currently considering an amendment to the Coroners Act to ensure the coroner informs concerned parties about their rights." (20 Oct 2022)
Read more at Out in Perth

VIC: Victoria’s most senior Catholic has backed the Coalition’s proposal to amend the Equal Opportunity Act to allow religious schools to hire staff on the basis of faith, despite opposition from the state’s peak multicultural organisation and a leading Jewish group. (21 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Guardian

NSW: A married couple who were caught in the Armidale Anglican diocese’s evangelical stance on same-sex relationships have received a rare apology from the church, albeit one the couple are “disappointed” with. Peter Sanders and Peter Grace were given the ultimatum to break up and live lives of celibacy, or leave their roles at Armidale St Mary’s Anglican Church. (22 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Guardian

Commentary and Analysis

Lyndsay ConnorsIndependent Schools: Aspiration for the few, desperation for the many.
"Local councils should have no role in setting enrolment caps which force private schools to turn away prospective students (and the fees they bring in). This was the claim put forward recently to the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) by a group of five principals of high-fee Anglican schools in Sydney, backed by the Association of Independent Schools of NSW (AISNSW). These ‘exclusive’ schools argue that it is for them to decide which students they exclude and the circumstances in which they exclude them – and not for any regulatory authority, in this case local councils." (16 Oct 2022)
Read more at Pearls & Irritations

Sean KellyWhat politicians have in common with priests, or should.
"So where does the irreducible go, in politics? Not into religion, which, when it enters political discussion, is these days almost completely reduced to a discussion of rules, specifically who can still discriminate and who can be discriminated against. The most remarkable thing about the Essendon saga, in which Andrew Thorburn was CEO for a day or two before resigning after revelations about a church he chaired, was how tinny it finally felt. There were attempts to make it about big questions of human rights, but as a friend of mine remarked: what, the human right to be a CEO?" (17 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Age

Terence MillsSo this is Democracy at work!
"In the NSW Legislative Assembly you don’t actually have to do much apart from appear on Sky after Dark periodically and give the impression of being a man of the people. But Mark’s ambition has been to get more One Nation representatives into the NSW parliament. Not the lower house as they would actually have to be elected, rather the upper house where they aren’t accountable to an electorate. So Mark has come up with a wheeze to get somebody into parliament without actually being elected." (17 Oct 2022)
Read more at the AIMN

Matthew KnottBungled handling of West Jerusalem makes a tough decision worse.
Changing Australia’s position on a topic as contentious as the capital of Israel was always going to arouse intense opposition and debate. But the messy, confusing way the Albanese government executed its decision to no longer recognise West Jerusalem made a challenging task significantly more inflammatory and damaging than it needed to be. (18 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Age

Tony Walker – Australia’s reversal on recognising Jerusalem as Israeli capital is simply a return to status quo.
"The Albanese Labor government’s decision to reverse its predecessor’s recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has elicited a predictable reaction from Israel and its supporters in Australia. ... The short answer is that it is unlikely Australia’s “credibility” will be harmed by a decision that reinstates what has been, until recently, a status quo policy under successive Labor and Coalition governments. Rather, the decision announced by Foreign Minister Penny Wong will likely reinforce Canberra’s reputation as a middle power seeking to navigate its way in the shifting sands of Middle East politics." (19 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Conversation

David CroweHow Penny Wong ended up playing Twister on a minefield with Israel.
"Penny Wong has stepped so warily around so many traps over the past five months that it was jarring to see her playing Twister in a minefield this week when she had three positions on Israel within a day. From a small start – just a quiet change to a website – the government stumbled into a mess. And while some debates are messy by necessity, like the public argument over the stage three tax cuts, this one was not. It was all avoidable." (20 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Age

Geoffrey WhiteheadWe need an all-party declaration of support for the ABC.
"With the world at another of its historic tipping points, and since foreign policy essentially begins at home, its timely for Western governments to start building all-party declarations to the world that they see their traditional national public service broadcasters – like the 90-year-old ABC – as important democratic institutions having a focus on serving their people’s needs as citizens rather than their wants as consumers, and so helping us meet the new challenges we all face." (21 Oct 2022)
Read more at Pearls & Irritations

David MuirLet's start talking about a republic.
"Nothing should stall debate on a republic in the lead-up to a possible referendum in the next term of Parliament. ... The biggest roadblock to even talking seriously about a republic has been the unwillingness of a succession of prime ministers to put the issue on the public agenda." (21 Oct 2022)
Read more at Independent Australia

Amanda Meade – ABC news staff hit back at Media Watch over coverage of trans issues.
"An episode of Media Watch which canvasses whether the ABC’s coverage of transgender issues has been influenced by the broadcaster’s corporate partnership with an LGBTQ+ community group has angered journalists in the broadcaster’s news division." (21 Oct 2022)
Read more at The Guardian

Events and Campaigns

Have you faced discrimination at a religious school or organisation? Equality Australia wants to know!

The Bill to overturn the ban on NT/ACT's ability to pass VAD laws is still being debated. Ask your state Senators to support territory rights!

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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