Weekend Wrap for 26 March 2023

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 26 March 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

Furore over the presence of neo-Nazi protesters at a Melbourne anti-trans rights rally has spilled over into federal parliament, with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton rebuffing a fiery tirade from Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. The clash comes after an ongoing push by Victorian Liberals leader John Pesutto to expel MP Moira Deeming from the parliamentary party following her attendance at the anti-trans rights rally on Saturday. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus launched an attack on Opposition Leader Peter Dutton during question time over what he alleged was a failure to condemn the neo-Nazi protesters. (21 Mar 2023)
Read more at ABC News

Federal Liberal senator Sarah Henderson has been personally lobbying Victorian Liberal leader John Pesutto not to expel controversial MP Moira Deeming from the party room. Ms Deeming is fighting to remain in Coalition ranks after Mr Pesutto declared he would remove her for "organising, promoting and attending" the anti-trans-rights rally on the weekend that was gatecrashed by far-right extremists who performed Nazi salutes. The ABC understands Senator Henderson has personally sent Mr Pesutto messages urging him not to take action against Ms Deeming. Senator Henderson's advocacy puts the issue into the federal arena ahead of a scheduled visit to Canberra by British anti-trans-rights campaigner Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull. (22 Mar 2023)
Read more at ABC News

The teaching of creationism is commonplace within religious instruction programs in Australian public schools, according to Monash University's Dr Jennifer Bleazby, who said that religious instruction teachers operating in New South Wales and Queensland schools use numerous methods of indoctrination and deliver content that undermines official curricula – especially science. (25 Mar 2023)
Watch the related webinar at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Around the Country

VIC: Melbourne’s Catholic archbishop has asked a court to reduce a former altar boy’s almost $2 million sexual abuse payout as some injuries were caused outside of a paedophile priest’s horrific assaults. Archbishop Peter Comensoli has launched an appeal of a Supreme Court judge’s decision to award $1.9 million in damages to one of former priest Desmond Gannon’s victims, after he and the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne were found to be vicariously liable for the abuse. (15 Mar 2023)
Read more at The Age

VIC: A diverse group of trans, LGBTIQ+, multicultural, women’s and other civil society organisations have joined together to condemn the hate speech and transphobic displays that took place outside Victorian parliament on Saturday. The coalition said it highlighted the urgent need for Victoria and other jurisdictions to expand their anti-vilification laws to prohibit all forms of hate speech, including vilification based on gender identity or sexual orientation. There are currently no federal laws and no laws in Victoria, South Australia or Western Australia protecting LGBTIQ+ people from vilification. Only vilification based on race (and in Victoria, also based on religion) is prohibited in these places. (19 Mar 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth

VIC: Victorian MP Moira Deeming has vowed to fight moves to expel her from the parliamentary Liberal Party after her involvement in an anti-trans rights rally attended by neo-Nazis. Her attendance at Saturday's rally prompted Opposition Leader John Pesutto to announce plans to expel her from the parliamentary party. The Nazi salutes sparked widespread outrage and prompted Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes to announce plans to introduce legislation to ban the gesture. (20 Mar 2023)
Read more at ABC News

TAS: Mike Gaffney, an independent member of the state's Legislative Council, has given notice that he will move a motion proposing to change the Standing Orders to replace the recital of the Lord’s Prayer with a new secular statement. Debate on the issue is expected next week. (21 Mar 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

SA: At least six terminally ill South Australians have ended their lives using voluntary assisted dying since new laws came into effect seven weeks ago. Laws allowing voluntary assisted dying (VAD) passed the South Australian parliament in 2021, after years of campaigning by advocates and 17 failed attempts with the legislation coming into effect on January 31. In a statement, SA Health said 32 people had made a first formal request to start the process to access the pathway and that it had issued 11 permits. (21 Mar 2023)
Read more at ABC News

NSW: Two men have been charged after riot police were called to a church in south-west Sydney, where hundreds of people surrounded a small group protesting a speech by NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham. LGBTQI+ group Community Action for Rainbow Rights claimed they were "attacked" and pelted with rocks and bottles by hundreds of men, which met them outside St Michael's Church in Belfield. The group says about 15 of its members were there to peacefully protest an "anti-trans" speech by Mr Latham. (22 Mar 2023)
Read more at ABC News

NSW: Police are monitoring militant religious groups after tension over LGBTQ rights erupted into a violent attack on pro-trans protesters, who one fringe leader said should be “dragged by their ... hair” away from a south-west Sydney Catholic church. Local officers and state detectives are examining footage of Tuesday night’s attack to identify leaders of the mob who pelted the 15 protesters from Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR) with rocks and glass, ahead of another potential clash on Sunday. He is among three people who have been charged by police over the violence. (22 Mar 2023)
Read more at The Age

ACT: Intersex rights against controversial medical intervention have been promised for the first time in Australia, with the ACT government introducing a bill on Wednesday to protect intersex people from unnecessary medical interventions without their consent. If passed, new services will support a decision-making framework for families of intersex children, an establishment of a specialist unit in the Canberra Hospital, and training packages for health professionals. (22 Mar 2023)
Read more at SBS News

SA: The daughter of a woman who has died through accessing voluntary assisted dying in South Australia says she's happy her mother could die with dignity, and on her own terms. Amanda Hancock's mother Denise Wyatt is one of six South Australians who have died through accessing voluntary assisted dying (VAD), since new laws took effect in SA earlier this year. A spokesperson from SA Health said 44 medical practitioners have completed the mandatory VAD training, while a further 69 have registered but not yet completed the training. (24 Mar 2023)
Read more at ABC News

NSW: Organisers of an anti-abortion rally on Sunday have called for calm amid fears it will become another flashpoint after a violent protest outside a Sydney church on Tuesday. Hundreds of Catholics will march from St Mary’s Cathedral to NSW Parliament for a “Day of the Unborn Child” rally, gathering just 25 metres from a Macquarie Street abortion clinic. The annual rally will be led by the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher. Leaders of the largely Maronite group Christian Lives Matter called for supporters to come to the rally “in the thousands”, days after pro-trans protesters were attacked outside St Michael’s Church in Belfield. (25 Mar 2023)
Read more at The Age

Commentary and Analysis

Neil Foster: A Human Rights Charter for Australia? A Guest Blog Post.
"Recently the Australian Human Rights Commission has issued a Position Paper entitled A Human Rights Act for Australia . I have often commented here on the gaps in protection for religious freedom under Australian federal law, and one suggestion that has sometimes been made is that Australia should implement internationally recognised rights such as those contained in art 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. But is doing this by way of a federal Human Rights Charter the right way to go? I asked one of Australia’s leading commentators on international human rights issues, Dr Paul Taylor, to offer some preliminary comments on the proposals that have been put forward." (20 Mar 2023)
Read more at Law and Religion Australia

Christopher Knaus: ‘It crucifies you every time’: the ‘crushing’ new tactic the church uses to block claims by abuse survivors.
"In interviews with 13 lawyers working on separate abuse cases, analysis of court records and in discussions with survivors and their advocates, the Guardian has found that the church is now routinely using the deaths of clergy to either have survivors’ claims thrown out or to force them to accept paltry settlement amounts. The strategy is being used even in cases where the dead priest or brother was a notorious paedophile who had previously abused other children and where the church had failed to act to remove the perpetrator. In one case it has been accused of sitting on its hands for almost two years, deliberately waiting for one of the worst Catholic school offenders in New South Wales to die without seeking any response to a new survivor’s allegations – and then using his death to argue it cannot receive a fair trial. (22 Mar 2023)
Read more at The Guardian

Jordan Baker and Perry Duffin: ‘Soldiers of God’: The religious rights movement born in a Strathfield office.
"Religious rights group Christian Lives Matter was born in a sterile Strathfield office in 2017, when the marriage equality vote prompted a group of conservative Catholics, many of them from the Maronite church, to unite over fears that children would be corrupted by the 'alphabet' [LGBTQ] agenda creeping into the mainstream. Their resistance would involve prayers, protests and rosary beads. They would be loud, vigilant and outspoken, but not violent; they resolved to “stay united, stay strong, pray and just be aware,” one attendee told the Herald on the condition of anonymity. Six years later, the group has 18,000 Instagram followers, its own merchandise and a growing public profile." (24 Mar 2023)
Read more at The Age

Cait Kelly and Mostafa Rachwani: What’s behind the ‘terrifying’ backlash against Australia’s queer community?
"At the start of March, Australia was the queerest place to be. Members of the LGBTQ+ community and their families walked over the Sydney Harbour Bridge for WorldPride, joined by the prime minister, Anthony Albanese. Rainbows draped the city, eco-friendly glitter was strewn across the streets and trans and gender-diverse performers hit the stage. Then the tone changed." (25 Mar 2023)
Read more at The Age

Michael Bachelard and Sumeyya Ilanbey: Moira Deeming was given three options. That’s when the quarrel began.
"Before she could be officially endorsed, a senior official chimed in with the news that then prime minister Scott Morrison’s office did not want her on the team. Just one week before Morrison’s disastrous captain’s pick of anti-trans activist Katherine Deves to run for the seat of Warringah, his office thought Deeming was too radical. Negative media coverage of her social views, including her opposition to vaccine mandates, would distract from his campaign, Morrison’s office said." (25 Mar 2023)
Read more at The Age

Events and Campaigns

News Corp have begun a new podcast series, "Faith on Trial", investigating various stories relating to Hillsong, including alleged exploitation of staff, questionable treatment of Hillsong college students, and the trial of Brian Houston.
Listen to the podcast here

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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