Weekend Wrap for 28 April 2024

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 28 April 2024, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

Videos from the Secularism Australia Conference 2023 are now available. The NSL was a proud co-organiser and co-sponsor of this event.

If you're not already following us on social media, please consider dropping by our pages on Twitter, Facebook and Mastodon!

Do you know someone who might be interested in the stories in our Wrap mailouts? Use the "Forward this email to a friend" link at the bottom of the email.

At the National Level

The continued dominance of Christianity in Anzac Day Dawn Services and commemorations risks putting off many Australians, veterans and soldiers, the Rationalist Society of Australia (RSA) has told the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL). The RSA said Anzac Day and other significant days of commemoration should be secular and welcoming of all Australians. Christian rites and traditions – including prayers, benedictions, hymns, Bible readings, and addresses by chaplains – continue to dominate Anzac commemorations. (23 Apr 2024)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

States are demanding an extra $12 billion from the federal government in public schools funding over the next decade as education ministers vow not to back down from a united front against a Commonwealth they are accusing of shortchanging students. “While the states do the heavy lifting when it comes to public schools, the Commonwealth is intent on shortchanging Australian kids,” Victorian Deputy Premier Ben Carroll said. (26 Apr 2024)
Read more at The Age

An alliance of Australia's peak Islamic groups is calling for the country's terrorism laws to be changed after the arrest of seven teenage boys in Sydney. Five of the boys have been charged with conspiring to plan for a terrorist attack, in relation to the stabbing at the Assyrian Orthodox Church last week. The alliance says the concept of what's called 'religiously motivated terrorism' should be removed from the legislation. (26 Apr 2024)
Listen to this piece at ABC News

In Scott Morrison’s new book, Plans for Your Good: A Prime Minister’s Testimony of God’s Faithfulness, which will be released next week, the former PM says that Australians did not know the "real" Scott Morrison and that he largely kept his faith private during his four years in power. "People used to accuse me of peddling my faith, which I found outrageous by the way. ... I did not engage in any sort of evangelical mission whilst in office." (27 Apr 2024)
Read more at The Age

Around the Country

WA: WA Liberal leader Libby Mettam has insisted that her party’s new policy that calls for a ban on transgender youth being able to access puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones is based on science and not ideology. The move makes the Liberal party the first mainstream political party to support a ban against the current model of care for transgender youth. (22 Apr 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

NSW: NSW Premier Chris Minns has labelled a radical Islamic cleric a "fringe" figure whose rhetoric, after last Monday’s stabbing of Assyrian Christian Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel in southwest Sydney, was "unhelpful" as mainstream Muslim leaders repeated calls to reject division.
On Tuesday, Mr Minns applauded the work of religious leaders but criticised the rhetoric from Abu Ousayd – also known as Wissam Haddad – at Bankstown’s Al Madina Dawah Centre. Faith NSW chief executive Murray Norman said with religious freedom came responsibility, and faith leaders were united against anyone sowing division. (23 Apr 2024)
Read more at The Australian

WA: An elderly man who has spent much of the last 15 years living overseas appears set to access WA's voluntary assisted dying scheme after earlier being turned down. VAD laws require an applicant to have been an "ordinary" WA resident for the previous 12 months, in an attempt to stop people travelling to the state just to access the scheme. But a tribunal has ruled the man maintained a physical and emotional connection to WA, in a decision that could have interstate ramifications. (24 Apr 2024)
Read more at ABC News

Commentary and Analysis

Lucy Hamilton: The Bishop
"The stabbing of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel on the weekend during his church service, days after the Bondi stabbing, demands Australia focuses on solving the causes. ... The Bishop is a complicated man. Apparently he does much good but he also expresses his bigotry in his “humorous” caricatures of, for example, Koreans, as part of geopolitical fearmongering. He dismissed Islam in “many of his sermons.” The religious ethnostate and militarism are central to this Christian Nationalist worldview. We must discuss the elements of Christian Nationalism that promote violence, whether in its demonisation of Islam and LGBTQIA+ people, or its inculcation of the misogyny that is connected to so much violence in our society. There is no excuse for this stabbing. We must work to address the many causes, including heated rhetoric, that promote it." (20 Apr 2024)
Read more at Pearls & Irritations

Josh Roose: Is Australian multiculturalism at a crossroads? How terror attacks on faith communities tear the social fabric
"In the case of the attack on Bishop Mar Mari, it was reported that the alleged offender openly stated his religious motivation (as defending Islam). Further, it seemed to be timed to coincide with a livestream, and obviously caused serious harm and danger. Labelling the incident an “act of terror” would not, historically, be particularly controversial. ... There have been efforts by some in Muslim communities to challenge the designation of religious motivation for terrorism as an element of the Australian legislation. Gamal Kheir, Secretary of the Lebanese Muslim Association, asked, 'Why are we so quick to jump to a definition of terrorism when religion is involved?'" (23 Apr 2024)
Read more at ABC Religion & Ethics

Alastair Lawrie: Decoding Life, Freedoms and Governance
"I must confess I don’t feel particularly qualified to talk in detail on the topic of ‘decoding life’ – which is something most people do in consultation with their therapist. I do, however, have plenty to say on the twin, and intertwining, topics of ‘decoding freedoms’ and ‘decoding governance’, at least partly based on my lived experience. That’s because, as a 45-year-old gay man, it has been impossible to avoid thinking about the meaning of freedom – of what I have been free to do, or not do, or protected from, or not, at different stages of my life. And what others, including religious organisations, have been legally free to do to me. Or to deny the role of governance, and governments – state and federal – in determining the extent of those ‘freedoms’, far-too-often without consultation with or even consideration of those most affected by their decisions." (23 Apr 2024)
Read more at alastairlawrie.net

Bill Uren: Where does Infinite Dignity meet finite reality?
"The Vatican Declaration is basically a statement of Catholic principles on human dignity. It draws the line in a whole variety of contexts where human dignity may not be compromised and where consequential human rights must be maintained as inalienable. Because it is exclusively a statement of principles there are no concessions of a pastoral nature to those whose lifestyles and practices (e.g. LGBTIQA+, transgenders, surrogate motherhood) are at odds with these principles. This, however, is not only disappointing in itself but doubly so in that a more sensitive approach to some of these ‘problems’ has been evident in more recent Vatican documents. In these documents, while there has been no retreat from the basic principles, there has also been evident a willingness both to recognize that adherence to these principles is very difficult for some people and virtually impossible in some situations and that a more inclusive and inductive moral logic that respects individual circumstances must be employed if the Church is to engage effectively with these alienated 'irregulars'." (24 Apr 2024)
Read more at Eureka Street

Paul Gregoire: Proselytising from the NSW Lower House, and the Rise of Faith in State Politics
"'NSW needs to come together,' Minns wrote on X, above photos of himself sitting with Sydney faith leaders to discuss a 16-year-old boy stabbing a 53-year-old man in front of a crowd of people in the immediate aftermath of the crime, which doesn’t appear to be regular government protocol. ... Minns further advised the ABC that his late-night meeting with faith leaders had resulted in them, 'unanimously', calling for calm and condemning 'any violence in Sydney'. And while this could have potentially been ascertained via a group email the following day, that wouldn’t have conveyed the understanding that faith is now being inserted into the political sphere, which, from a secular viewpoint, might not be the best option for the state to take at this point." (25 Apr 2024)
Read more at Sydney Criminal Lawyers

Alexia Adhikari: Federal funding for private schools
"If the public does not support giving tax deductions for private schools to build new facilities unless they have a clear educational benefit, then the tax deductibility status given to school building funds needs to be re-examined. Indeed, a 2023 Productivity Commission inquiry found that giving deductible gift receipt status to private school building funds is an ineffective use of government support, unless there is an explicit equity objective. ... Another idea that could help ensure more public benefit comes from the tax concessions given to private schools would be to require private schools to make their facilities available for community groups to use outside of school hours. Australia Institute polling shows that this is an idea with which an overwhelming majority of Australians (80%) agree." (26 Apr 2024)
Read more at the Australia Institute

Events and Campaigns

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!

Until next time, please follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Mastodon.

And if you are able, please consider making a small monthly contribution to the NSL to help us raise the secular profile in Australia. Every dollar helps!