Weekend Wrap for 26 November 2023

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 26 November 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

Only a few days until the first Secularism Australia Conference! Visit the conference website to find out more about the speakers and buy your tickets!

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At the National Level

Legal experts say a record $3.3 million payout awarded by a Victorian jury to the victim of a paedophile priest this month could change the way victims of sexual abuse in the church are compensated. The Supreme Court case was the first time a civil trial against the Catholic Church had been tested before a jury, and the $3.3 million figure was the largest payout of its kind from the church to an abuse survivor. (19 Nov 2023)
Read more at ABC News

A report by independent education economist Adam Rorris for the Australian Education Union shows chronic underfunding of public schools in every state and the Northern Territory is expected to worsen over the next five years. In 2023, Tasmanian public schools were underfunded by $118 million, compared to private schools, which were overfunded by $7 million. Public schools in Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory were collectively underfunded by around $1.2 billion this year alone. It is a problem that is projected to persist, with private schools set to be cumulatively overfunded by nearly $3 billion over the next five years. (20 Nov 2023)
Read more at ABC News

Gender-affirming procedures such as chest surgery and genital reconfiguration would be subsidised by Medicare under a push to improve mental health and quality of life for transgender people. The federal health department will consider an application from the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons that seeks to establish 21 Medicare items for gender-affirming surgeries for people who have gender incongruence, in which a person’s experience of gender does not align with how they were born. (20 Nov 2023)
Read more at The Age

The Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal (DFRT) interim review of the implementation of the secular Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officer (MSWO) roles in the Navy's chaplaincy branch has revealed strong demand for the capability and underscored the need for further secularisation of pastoral care in the military. In the DFRT interim review, a Defence Force ‘response’ to a key performance indicator said demand for accessing MSWOs among Navy personnel had been “strong”. (21 Nov 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Around the Country

NSW: Sydney councillors have accused their counterparts from other parts of New South Wales of making homophobic and transphobic comments during debates about forming a network to support LGBTQIA+ representatives and drag story time events. Sydney councillor Adam Worling intends to push ahead with plans to set up a network to support queer councillors, despite the proposal being voted down at last week's NSW Local Government conference. He said the tone of the debate demonstrated the need for such a network. (22 Nov 2023)
Read more at ABC News

NSW: The NSW Labor government has abandoned its promise to introduce new laws this year to outlaw gay conversion practices after church groups and LGBTQ advocates pleaded for more time to ensure the “sensitive” legislation strikes the right balance. NSW Premier Chris Minns had guaranteed that new laws would be introduced to parliament this year after making an election promise that he would ban the harmful practices. However, faith groups – including the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher – and independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich this week lobbied Minns not to rush the laws and risk “unintended consequences”. NSW parliament will sit for the final time this year next week. (24 Nov 2023)
Read more at The Age

NSW: Steven Cowgill, the parent behind a new petition calling for reform of the Special Religious Education (SRE) program in New South Wales’ public schools, has spoken of his frustration at receiving little to no response from the government to his questions over a number of years and is hopeful that the petition will generate enough support to force a more substantial response from the government. The petition asks the government to change the state’s Education Act (1990) so that optional SRE and SEE are run only during participating students’ own time, such as breaks or before or after school. (25 Nov 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Commentary and Analysis

Elli Jacobs: Laura’s parenting style is ‘hands-off’ due to her strict, religious upbringing
"Being raised under strict religious doctrine can have knock-on effects that impact all parts of life, particularly parenting, says Dr Cathy Kezelman, president of Blue Knot Foundation, an organisation that provides information and support to those suffering complex trauma. 'When you’ve been raised within a controlled environment with very little freedom to make your own choices or realise that you can make choices,' she says, 'it’s very difficult to develop the strong core sense of self necessary to provide your children with a secure base from which they can explore the world.'" (19 Nov 2023)
Read more at The Age

Mark Beeson: Losing my religion
"One of the problems with large bodies of religious literature and doctrine is that it is possible to find a rationale for just about anything, including despatching those who subscribe to a different theological epistemology. Selectively invoking convenient passages out of context to justify religious persecution and bigotry is a tradition as old as organised religion itself, and one that is clearly not going out of fashion; like religion itself, for that matter. While people may derive many benefits from belonging to a religious community, inclusivity and the acceptance of others is not necessarily one of them. Say what you like about agnostics, but what you don’t know not only can’t hurt you, but it doesn’t provide a basis for disliking, much less persecuting others either." (19 Nov 2023)
Read more at Pearls & Irritations

ABC: Believing in Australia
This new four episode docuseries from the ABC explores how the great shifts in Australians' faiths, ethics and beliefs have transformed the continent and its people. (21 Nov 2023)
Watch series on ABC iView

Brian Greig: Keep the pressure on LGBTIQA+ law reform
"If our community keeps up the pressure on the Cook Government it will stumble ahead with some LGBTIQA+ reforms this term despite their claim to the contrary. However, be alert to the traps. Here’s the top 10 issues we need to look out for as we push Labor to keep its promises." (21 Nov 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth

Si Gladman: Say your prayers
"Last year, when the newly appointed President of the Senate, Sue Lines, publicly expressed her support for removing the daily recital of Christian prayers from the Senate’s procedures and her job description, her Labor colleagues swiftly pulled her back into line. Now, whenever the Senate opens for the day, we can all watch on – see the livestream here on the Australian Parliament House website – as an atheist is forced to recite two Christian prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer, for the Senators and staff in attendance before everyone can get on with their jobs." (21 Nov 2023)
Read more at Rationale Magazine

Rach Cosker-Rowland: Requiring trans people to use bathrooms for the gender they were assigned at birth violates their rights and does no good
"This year several US states, including Florida and Kansas, have introduced bills requiring all trans people to use public bathrooms that match the sex they were assigned at birth. All trans men, for instance, who live in, or pass through, Florida and Kansas must now use the women’s bathrooms, even if they have lived as a man for decades, are legally men, are thought to be men by everyone who sees them, have large beards, and have had sex reassignment surgery. ... These bathroom bills do demonstrable harm to trans people, do not avert any harm, and breach trans people’s rights. ... Many trans people are physically or sexually assaulted if they are forced to use bathrooms that clash with their gender presentation." (23 Nov 2023)
Read more at ABC Religion & Ethics

Brett Henebery: Who gets what when it comes to school funding in Australia?
"Australia’s public schools could be shortchanged more than $39bn over six years unless governments act to fix funding disparities, a new report has warned. The research, conducted by prominent economist Adam Rorris finds that unless the Commonwealth and State Governments act to ensure that new funding agreements fix funding shortfalls, over the period 2023-28 public schools will be denied over $6bn a year, totalling nearly $39bn over six years, whilst private schools will remain overfunded by nearly $3bn." (23 Nov 2023)
Read more at The Educator

Meg Wallace: Secular morality versus religious morality
"...both federal and state governments require the recitation of prayers in government proceedings, promote religious doctrine in political debate, and grant financial assistance for church activities such as schools and ‘charitable’ activities. This disregards the rise of the UN with its 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which was specifically implemented to create a universal ‘sound [public] morality’ regardless of one’s religion or other worldview." (25 Nov 2023)
Read more at the Secular Association of NSW

Paul Gregoire: Hate Speech, Gay Conversion and the NSW Faith Lobby: Minns’ Religious Freedoms Crusade
"The Faith Affairs Council may sound like a small innocuous body that won’t hold much influence over parliament. However, religious politicians – and locally that predominately means Christian members – have been concerned with the resurrection of greater religious freedoms of late. And the council is not the only religious body that will be influencing politics, as last month the premier and other cabinet members attended the launch of Faith NSW, which is a new multifaith lobby group that will make representations to the Faith Affairs Council and government." (23 Nov 2023)
Read more at Sydney Criminal Lawyers

Events and Campaigns

The inaugural Secularism Australia Conference will be held in Sydney on 2 December 2023.
Learn more at the Secularism Australia website

Residents of NSW, there is a petition running that calls on the state parliament to run scripture (SRE) and ethics (SEE) lessons outside class time in NSW public schools.
View the petition at the NSW Parliament House website

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

Reason Australia are encouraging Victorians to email the state government asking to remove prayers from Victorian state parliament.
Read more at the Reason Australia website

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

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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