Weekend Wrap for 26 February 2023

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 26 February 2023, 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

New Australian Bureau of Statistics data revealed a record number of students in Catholic schools. "Ten new Catholic schools opened across Australia over the past 12 months with 1,759 Catholic schools educating nearly 794,000 or one in five Australian students and employing over 104,500 staff," National Catholic Education executive director Jacinta Collins said. (17 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Catholic Leader

Australia is being urged to use its diplomatic and economic clout in the Pacific and South-East Asia to push for progress on LGBTQI rights and commit millions more to fund grassroots groups driving change in neighbouring countries. Gay, lesbian and transgender people are among the most marginalised citizens in the Asia-Pacific, and consensual same-sex sexual relations remain illegal in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Palau, Tuvalu and Kiribati. Isikeli Vulavou, executive director of the Pacific Sexual and Gender Diversity Network, said discrimination against LGBTIQ people in the Pacific could largely be attributed to the arrival of Christianity through western colonialism. (19 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

Katherine Deves has doubled down on comments perceived by some as anti-trans, saying she wouldn't issue the same apology she made after her remarks sparked a firestorm of controversy during the federal election campaign. Ms Deves was among those appearing on SBS Insight this week, exploring political correctness. The Liberal Party's former candidate for the federal NSW seat of Warringah, who is also the co-founder of Save Women's Sport, was strongly criticised last year after a number of now-deleted comments on social media resurfaced. (21 Feb 2023)
Read more at SBS News

Abuse survivors are complaining of being shut out of church hearings into former governor-general Peter Hollingworth. Two weeks ago, former governor-general Peter Hollingworth walked into the hearing that will decide if he should be stripped of holy orders over his handling of child sex abuse cases as Anglican archbishop of Brisbane in the 1990s. Most of those who brought complaints against Dr Hollingworth, who remains a bishop in the church, say they were not invited to take part. Concerns about the process have been shared by the State's Children's Commissioner who said the five-year process had "not met reasonable community expectations". (23 Feb 2023)
Read more at ABC News

A letter from Australia’s most senior religious figures expressing “deep disappointment” with the scope of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into religious schools “had very little impact” on the thinking of the inquiry’s commissioner, NSW Supreme Court Judge Justice Stephen Rothman. Justice Rothman said the authors of the 13 February letter—including Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and the most senior clergy of the Anglican and Orthodox churches, alongside top Jewish and Muslim leaders—had disappointed him by raising objections in the media. He also said he thought the authors had misunderstood some of what was proposed by the ALRC in its 27 January consultation paper. (24 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Catholic Weekly

Martyn Iles, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, has announced that the organisation's board has decided to terminate his employment as they want to head in a different direction, focusing more on political lobbying than preaching the gospel. (24 Feb 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth

Around the Country

TAS: Prominent LGBTIQA+ rights activist Rodney Croome has urged the state government to honour its commitment to ban conversion practices. The call came after New South Wales independent MP Alex Greenwich unveiled legislation that gained bipartisan support in the state. Equality Tasmania president Rodney Croome said the state government had not even tabled draft legislation in the nine months since Premier Jeremy Rockliff committed to banning conversion therapy. "As more states move to ban conversion practices, Tasmania risks becoming a haven for those practices. We know conversion practices are still occurring in Tasmania, and the government has a duty to protect those who are harmed by such practices." (19 Feb 2023)
Read more at The Advocate

VIC: Victorian MP Moira Deeming has used her inaugural speech to parliament to voice her anti-trans views. The conservative MP attacked gender affirmation for people young people who are transgender, voiced her opposition to Victoria’s laws that outlaw conversion therapy, and argued that transgender people should not be allowed to use the bathroom that matches their gender. (22 Feb 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth

NSW: NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has moved to assure religious leaders a re-elected Coalition government would not use a ban on so-called gay conversion therapy to infringe the right of religious figures to pray and preach on matters pertaining to sexuality. In remarks that were welcomed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, Perrottet indicated there would be limits to the scope of any bill entertained by his government if re-elected on March 25. (23 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

VIC: Emails from controversial new Victorian Liberal MP Moira Deeming show behind the scenes of her successful run for state Parliament. Deeming claimed she could secure $100,000 in donations if preselected, thanked a constituent who blamed COVID-19 on abortion and homosexuality, and claimed God “arranged” her preselection. (23 Feb 2023)
Read more at Crikey (paywalled)

Commentary and Analysis

Lyndsay Connors: If the private school sector is ‘too big to fail’, why make it bigger?
"Funding private schools now costs the federal taxpayer $16 billion annually. Recurrent funding from Canberra now exceeds the private school sector’s total teaching staff salary bill. Australia’s school system has been weakened through cumulative decisions by both major parties in government, including through cost and blame-shifting. ... There would be no harm to students if state funding were removed from those non-government schools where private income – from high fees and parent contributions – add up to twice (or more) the amount of their base resource standard. The main effect of this funding is to enable more private funding to be channelled into non-educational facilities such as subterranean carparks." (20 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

Kevin Donnelly: Religious schools must be allowed to keep the right to discriminate.
In an increasingly multicultural, multi-faith society like Australia it is vital that all faith-based schools, regardless of their religious character, have the freedom to best reflect the needs and aspirations of their various communities. The uniquely religious nature of faith-based schools must be protected. Students who attended Christian schools, based on a Cardus Education Survey, are more civic-minded than graduates of government schools, as measured by involvement in political parties, professional associations, sporting and cultural groups. The idea of removing the right that religious schools currently have to discriminate over staffing and enrolments represents a fundamental attack on religious freedom." (21 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

The Advocate Editorial: Little need for discrimination in religious schools.
The outcry from some religious institutions over proposed changes to anti-discrimination laws is, in a word, fearmongering. Religious education is not under threat; though it may be worth considering if it should still attract public funding. Those who say they are fighting for "religious freedom" are really arguing for the right to continue to discriminate against others on grounds that would otherwise be unlawful in our society." (21 Feb 2023)
Read more at The Advocate

Liam Elphick: Religious schools can still expel LGBTQ kids. That needs to change.
"Exemptions in discrimination law often seek to balance the importance of other rights, such as religious freedom, with freedom from discrimination. But in the exemptions for religious schools, this line is drawn heavily in favour of religion. These exemptions mean that religious schools can exclude kids who come out as gay or transgender, or treat them differently to other kids. Schools can refuse to hire, deny promotion or sack teachers who are pregnant or single mothers. If the Law Reform Commission’s proposals are implemented, LGBTQ students and teachers will finally be protected from discrimination. They would be able to go to school and work as their true selves, without the threat of exclusion hanging over them." (22 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

Steven Coxhead: Should premillennialism be considered a “Christian extremist ideology”?
"As a citizen of this country, I was shocked and profoundly disturbed by the murder of two police officers and an innocent civilian by the Trains in Wieambilla in December 2022. This was a heinous crime that should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. As a Christian theologian, I was also startled to hear the Queensland Police describe this crime as 'a religiously motivated terrorist attack' on the basis that Nathaniel, Gareth, and Stacey Train subscribed to 'a broad Christian fundamentalist belief system, known as premillennialism.'" (23 Feb 2023)
Read more at ABC Religion & Ethics

Paul Gregoire: Nonreligious Marginalised as NSW Privileges Religious Voice, Warns Rationalist Society’s Meredith Doig.
"At a dinner of state faith leaders on 7 November, NSW Labor leader Chris Minns announced that if his party takes out the March state election, it will establish the NSW Faith Affairs Council, which will act as an advisory body to the executive on matters that affect religious organisations. The council will incorporate representatives from a range of religions, and to reflect this multifaith basis, Labor plans on broadening the multicultural portfolio to incorporate religious affairs, with the Faith Affairs Council having a direct line to consult the minister. ... While critics are wary of prioritising religious leaders in shaping social policies, as, not only do they fail to represent much of the diversifying constituency, but often, these clerics don’t even hold the same opinion as many of the adherents of their religious organisations do." (23 Feb 2023)
Read more at Sydney Criminal Lawyers

Anthony Klan: Christian group 'linked' to Premier Perrottet's brother allegedly gutted Council.
"A far-right 'Christian' group allegedly linked the NSW Premier's brother was likely involved in illegally funnelling property developer cash to stack a Sydney Council, an inquiry has heard. In 2019 it emerged there was a 'conservative Christian plot' to 'take control' of the NSW Liberal Party. The Sydney Morning Herald revealed a secretive entity called the NSW Reformers was 'working to recruit 5000 Christian conservatives to the NSW Liberals' to 'take control of the state division of the Party'." (23 Feb 2023)
Read more at Independent Australia

Events and Campaigns

The Joint Standing Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme are holding an inquiry into the operations of the National Redress Scheme. Written submissions are due by Monday 27 February 2023.
Read more at the Australian Parliament House website

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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