Weekend Wrap for 26 May 2024

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 26 May 2024, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

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At the National Level

Former Prime Minister John Howard has strongly defended the right of faith-based schools to hire staff who share the same religious beliefs and values as “common sense”, saying that it should be respected in any new legislation affecting religious freedoms. He also denounced the Australian Bureau of Statistic’s proposal to rephrase the question on religion in the 2026 Census, saying it exposes an ideological war being waged against religious groups by public servants inside the ‘Canberra bubble’. (21 May 2024)
Read more at The Catholic Weekly

Survivors of a fundamentalist Christian sect at the centre of an international child sexual abuse investigation say they are stuck in limbo waiting for the group to sign up to a national compensation scheme for victims. The sect is now under a global investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in the United States for historical cases of child sexual abuse. The ABC revealed that the sect is also set to host special meetings in at least seven state schools across Queensland. (22 May 2024)
Read more at ABC News

Around the Country

NSW: Parents in New South Wales have raised concern over chastity speaker Jason Evert speaking to their children at their Catholic Schools. The US based author delivers talks encouraging youth to abstain from sex outside of marriage and has previously described homosexual people as being “disordered” in one of his books, although the reference was removed in later editions. Several online petitions have been launched calling on the Catholic Church and its schools to cancel the talks. (19 May 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

WA: A conglomerate of Western Australian LGBTIQA+ groups have called on the state government to ignore the findings of the Cass Review. The review into transgender health care in Britain’s national health service made major recommendations to change the way the UK health service operates including a ban on youth being able to access puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. In a joint letter they call on Premier Roger Cook to recognise that there are significant flaws in the review, and the system that operated in the UK is starkly different to the processes and treatment standards used in Australia. (21 May 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

NT: Terminally ill people who lose their mental capacity would be able to access voluntary assisted dying under a nation-first proposal being weighed by the ACT government. Labor backbencher Dr Marisa Paterson put forward an amendment to what will be the most liberal euthanasia framework in the country if passed into law, allowing patients to appoint a "VAD attorney" who has the legal power to sign off on their access to the scheme. Dr Paterson, who was on the committee examining the legislation, said the proposed amendment would plug a gap in the existing VAD legislation in other jurisdictions. (21 May 2024)
Read more at The Australian

VIC: Religious leaders have written to all members of the Victorian Parliament to express the fundamental and ongoing importance of prayer in Parliament. The leaders urged members to recognise the role of prayer in Parliament and ensure its practice continued to play a part in the democratic tradition. It also suggested that a prayer was still appropriate given that a majority of Victorians expressed a belief in some sort of spiritual higher power -- whether that be the Christian God or not. (22 May 2024)
Read more at The Catholic Weekly

QLD: Elon Musk has suffered a legal defeat in Australia after his social media company X argued it should not be subject to local anti-discrimination laws. The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruled that X – formerly known as Twitter – had to answer to the state’s laws despite being based in America. The ruling stemmed from a complaint made by the Australian Muslim Advocacy Network, which alleged that Musk’s X had to be responsible for posts on its site vilifying Muslims because it was a publisher. Queensland’s human rights commissioner was satisfied the complaint included religious vilification before referring the matter to the tribunal. (24 May 2024)
Read more at The Age

Commentary and Analysis

Rodney Croome: WA history holds lessons for trans law debate
"In 2019 Tasmania passed the most inclusive, progressive gender recognition law in the world. The new law allowed for complete self-identification and for gender to be removed from birth certificates entirely. It also created the nation’s strongest bullying and discrimination protections for trans and gender diverse people. ... I know the political and historical situation is different in other states, including WA. But I hope my experience working on trans law reform gives me some insight into how to make real change. I share the anxiety many trans and gender diverse (TGD) West Australians have about the WA Government’s trans law reform." (21 May 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

Michael Bradley: Councils should have no power at all when it comes to basic freedoms
"The Cumberland Council ban, had it survived, would not have directly and exclusively discriminated against anyone based on their sexual identity; it didn’t say that LGBTQIA+ people couldn’t enter the library or borrow books, or impose any differential conditions on them compared to anyone else. ... However, unlawful discrimination can be direct or indirect. It takes little imagination to appreciate that providing a public library service, which excludes access for everyone to material that mentions the existence of same-sex parents, is necessarily disadvantageous to LGBTQIA+ people." (21 May 2024)
Read more at Crikey

Si Gladman: Time to take religion out of Anzac Day services
"While the insulting line that there are 'no atheists in foxholes' is often thrown around, religion – particularly, Christianity – has never been a unifying force among military personnel. Historians have noted that a great number of diggers during the First World War were not religious. Indeed, many showed a lack of interest in religion and distrusted military chaplains. One researcher and historian Chrys Stevenson has described the very ethos of the Anzacs as 'overwhelmingly irreligious'. In fact, if Australia were to find itself in conflict again, the men and women doing the fighting would be mostly non-religious. With a vast majority of Defence personnel now identifying as not religious, we would, as a nation, be pinning our hopes on many 'atheists in foxholes'..." (25 May 2024)
Read more at Rationale Magazine

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

Catch up on the latest RSA webinar featuring Tonoy Emroz Alam of Atheist Alliance International and Zara Kay of Faithless Hijabi.
Learn more and watch at the Rationalist Society of Australia

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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