Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 27 August 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.
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At the National Level
Some women who want contraception or are having a difficult pregnancy say they are being denied essential treatment because the publicly funded hospital they go to operates under Catholic ethical standards. This can mean that women are told to go to other hospitals or health facilities to receive the care they want. There are 15 Catholic public hospitals in Australia and most [Catholic Health Australia] hospitals do not provide public maternity and obstetrics services. (23 Aug 2023)
Listen to the full piece at ABC News
Anthony Albanese is under fresh pressure from Queensland’s Labor government to change federal laws that prohibit doctors from using telehealth for voluntary assisted dying appointments, following binding changes to the party’s national policy platform agreed to last week. (24 Aug 2023)
Read more at The Australian
The Catholic church’s bid to block a legal ruling that would allow the father of a choirboy allegedly sexually abused by Cardinal George Pell to sue for damages has been knocked down at the first hurdle. Pell, who died in January, had five convictions for abusing the man’s son and another boy overturned by the high court in 2020. The Catholic church sought to be excused from proceedings by relying on the Ellis defence, arguing the father could not sue because he was not the direct victim of the alleged abuse. The archdiocese was required to seek leave from the court of appeal to challenge that decision, and that leave was knocked back on Friday. (25 Aug 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
Around the Country
NSW: A long-touted equality bill that would ban NSW private schools from discriminating against LGBTQ teachers and students and outlaw gay conversion practices was introduced to parliament this week in a bid to pressure the Labor government to move on the major reforms. Sydney MP Alex Greenwich has for 18 months been drafting his equality bill, which he says is the most comprehensive LGBTIQA+ reform process in NSW’s history, with the backing of key groups including Equality Australia, LGBTQ health organisation ACON, and the NSW Gender Centre. However, the government insists it wants to introduce its own bill to ban gay conversion practices after committing to the reform during the election campaign. It says it has consulted 130 groups across a broad range of justice, health, education, LGBTQ+ and religious organisations.(22 Aug 2023)
Read more at The Age
TAS: Advocates have welcomed amendments that update references to people with sex variations across existing Tasmanian laws and make those references more inclusive. The amendments updated the Anti-Discrimination Act, the Court Security Act, the Youth Justice Act and the Public Trustee Act. (23 Aug 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth
SA: South Australian Labor Premier Peter Malinauskas’ office has stated that the government has no intention of changing the state parliament’s procedures that mandate daily Christian worship. In a letter received last week, the Premier’s office told the RSA that: “At this stage, the Government has no intentions to amend the Standing Orders of the House of Assembly or Legislative Council.” The Standing Orders of the chambers require the reading of Christian prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer, at the opening of each day. (23 Aug 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia
VIC: A decades-long fight to bring justice to the victims of Malka Leifer has ended with the former principal of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexually abusing and raping two former students in her care. Leifer, 56, will be eligible for parole in June 2029 after County Court Judge Mark Gamble imposed a non-parole period of 11½ years. Leifer has already served more than 2000 days in pre-sentence detention in Australia and Israel. (24 Aug 2023)
Read more at The Age
NSW: Australian Christian Lobby has launched a campaign to pressure Premier Chris Minns’ government to exclude religious settings from the purview of Labor’s proposed law to ban anti-gay conversion practices in NSW. Earlier this month, media reports said that the Labor government was planning to bring in a law to ban conversion practices. While details of the proposed law have not yet been made public, Nine Newspapers reported that the law would cover health and religious settings. The Christian Lobby claimed the proposed ban “could see parents, pastors, and healthcare workers criminalised for providing non-affirming care for those who are confused about their sex.” (24 Aug 2023)
Read more at The Star Observer
NSW: Christopher Moran, allegedly a victim of historical sexual abuse by Catholic priest David Perrett from the Diocese of Armidale, had hoped that bringing a civil court claim against the diocese for vicarious liability and negligence would bring him some form of justice, but on Wednesday morning that hope was dashed. The diocese sought to prevent the case from progressing with a permanent stay application, which are reserved for exceptional circumstances, and it was upheld in the Supreme Court of NSW. (24 Aug 2023)
Read more at ABC News
WA: A Labor MP in the West Australian parliament has warned his state to "never be complacent" about the threat posed by American-inspired religious groups to women’s abortion rights. In a speech on the state government's Abortion Legislation Reform Bill this month, Dave Kelly – who stood down from cabinet as a minister earlier this year – said religious groups in Western Australia would wait for their opportunity to wind back any gains to women’s access to abortion. The Abortion Legislation Reform Bill – which passed the Legislative Assembly last week and is currently before the Legislative Council – proposes to reduce a number of barriers to abortion services. (25 Aug 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia
TAS: Equality Tasmania has welcomed a state government bill improving 2016 legislation that allows for historical gay and transgender criminal records to be expunged. But the group says the bill does not go far enough because it does not allow for compensation as recommended by the independent review that is the basis of the new bill. They are calling on the government of Premier Jeremy Rockcliff to take more action and allow for compensation. (26 Aug 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth
Commentary and Analysis
Donna Lu and Melissa Davey: ‘I was shocked’: Catholic-run public hospitals refuse to provide birth control and abortion
"Publicly funded Catholic hospitals across Australia are using the cover of religion to opt out of providing reproductive care – and experts say it has created a ‘postcode lottery’ for access to services. ... Like a number of publicly funded Catholic hospitals around Australia, the Mercy’s religious affiliation limits the scope of reproductive services it provides. 'Sexual assault does not get seen at the Mercy specifically because they can’t provide morning-after contraception,' claims a senior gynaecologist who works in Melbourne and asked to remain anonymous. ... Following years of concerns about access to women’s health services, a Senate inquiry into reproductive healthcare access tabled a report of recommendations in May. But doctors and family planning advocates say the inquiry has failed to tackle one of the most galling issues: publicly funded hospitals denying women basic reproductive healthcare." (22 Aug 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
Rosie Clare Shorter: ‘Religion would take my life’: two women testify to enduring and surviving harm in evangelical Christian communities
"Rachel Louise Snyder, author of Women We Buried, Women We Burned, grew up in Pittsburgh and Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s. Her childhood appears clouded by grief, upheaval, family violence and the overbearing religiosity of adults: a religiosity she never shared. Steph Lentz, on the other hand, was a committed Sydney Anglican. She grew up in the 1990s, fully absorbed evangelical purity culture, and became an accidental “teenage fundamentalist” who, despite having crushes on girls from age nine, married her husband at 23. In October 2020, Lentz – now 30, divorced, and out to “close family members and a few trusted friends” – told the Christian school where she was a teacher that she was gay. She was fired. She tells her story in In/Out: A Scandalous Story of Falling into Love and Out of the Church." (23 Aug 2023)
Read more at The Conversation
Amy Fallon: ‘A world of secrecy’: new calls for greater transparency for religious charities
"The Greens and secular organisations have revived calls to remove the financial reporting exemptions given to thousands of religious charities, suggesting that scrapping them would enhance public trust in light of new research into their activities and wealth. No arguments put forward by Catholic and Anglican churches five years ago to justify the creation of “basic religious charities” (BRCs) hold water, said Dr Phil Saj, a visiting scholar at the University of Adelaide’s business school." (24 Aug 2023)
Read more at MSN/Crikey
Lucy Hamilton: CPAC 2023: the Christian Nationalists taking over the Coalition
"It is hard to gauge the importance of the Trumpist Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) event that took place in Sydney this weekend. There were more high-profile figures speaking than previously, and several currently serving politicians alongside white supremacists and antisemites. ... The Liberal Party insurgency was represented by Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, Alex Antic, Bev McArthur and Ted O’Brien. Of course, the insurgency’s poster girl Moira Deeming appeared twice. Former Liberal politicians Amanda Stoker, Bronwyn Bishop and Gary Hardgrave also spoke. ... The threat remains: if these Christian Nationalist, truth-distorting and conspiracy-peddling politicians take the reins of the Coalition fully, a “conservative” vote in Australia becomes a vote for the extreme fringe. Watching what percentage of their base is ready to be further radicalised is key to evaluating our risk." (24 Aug 2023)
Read more at the AIMN
Neil Foster: The Ethics of Freedom: Religious Freedom in the Workplace
"I am presenting a paper at the annual City Legal conference on August 25 on The Ethics of Freedom: Religious Freedom in the Workplace. It considers issues around religious freedom of employees and also touches on issues arising for Christian lawyers in particular." (25 Aug 2023)
Read the paper at Law and Religion Australia
Tom Tanuki: CPAC 2023 a breeding ground for dangerous ideologies
"Australian CPAC has been trying really hard to copy the energy of American CPAC since it began in 2019. It’s a poor imitation. They shuffle their speakers list like a deck of cards, often suffering last-minute withdrawals by big-name U.S. culture war darlings who aren't thrilled at the prospect of stirring up lefties in the arse end of the world. The CPAC brand of bottom-feeding culture war “politics” isn't winning much at the polls in Australia, but it keeps them all paid, financed and/or subscribed to and that’s enough. This is Trumpian politics — essentially conducting yourself in the political arena the way WWE pro wrestlers build up hype for WrestleMania. In pro wrestling, the term “jobbing” denotes mid-tier wrestlers who earn a solid paycheque out of continually losing to other up-and-comers. That's what these guys do. They're jobbing." (26 Aug 2023)
Read more at Independent Australia
Events and Campaigns
The ABS has opened up phase two of their 2026 Census topic consultation. Please consider making a submission supporting the introduction of a filter question.
Make a submission at the ABS website
Equality Australia are running a petition calling on the Federal Government and all remaining states and territories to remove unnecessary legal carve-outs for religious schools and organisations and ensure laws protect everyone equally.
Read and sign the petition at Equality Australia
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 28,000 signatures.
View the petition at change.org
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.
The Human Rights for NSW alliance has launched a campaign calling for NSW to pass a Human Rights Act.