Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 3 September 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.
The NSL is a proud sponsor of the first Secularism Australia Conference, to be held on 2nd December 2023 in Sydney. Visit the conference website to find out more about the speakers and get your tickets at an early-bird rate until 7th October!
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At the National Level
The economic payoff of fully funding public schools would be two to four times the annual cost, a new report published by The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work shows. The report says that funding public schools to 100% of the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) requires an additional $6.6bn per year but would deliver long term economic and fiscal benefits of between $17.8b and $24.7b a year. The report concludes that funding schools to 100% of the SRS, which is the minimum level governments say they need, must be “seen as a long-run investment, that will drive improved economic, social and fiscal performance for all sectors of the economy - including government”. (30 Aug 2023)
Read more at The Educator
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia have published a report updating the Church's progress in implementing the relevant recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Following the format of the initial response, the new report lists each relevant Royal Commission recommendation, the response that was given in 2018, and a high-level summary of work undertaken in the five years since. (1 Sep 2023)
Read more at The Catholic Leader
A review into the scandal-plagued Air Force Chaplaincy Branch has identified a “broad tension” in being able to reconcile the religious identities of chaplains with the “unified values” of Defence members. In minutes taken at the September 2022 meeting of the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services (RACS), it was noted that, in a 'directive' published internally on the intranet last year, the Air Force Chaplaincy Review had “observed a broad tension between the identity of Air Force chaplains as chaplains and as Air Force members.” The RACS minutes noted that the ‘directive’ had also said: Effectively reconciling individual religious identity with the unified values, responsibilities and procedural requirements assumed by all members of the Royal Australian Air Force on entry is to be an overriding consideration in implementation of specific recommendations arising from the Review. At the June 2022 meeting, the Director-General of Air Force chaplaincy reported that the Air Force needed chaplains who could work in “diverse and inclusive, secular environments like Defence”. (1 Sep 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia
Around the Country
NSW: Principals at Sydney’s Anglican schools will no longer be forced to sign a document affirming they believe marriage should only be between a man and a woman under a new proposal by the church that is set to abolish the controversial requirement. In a draft policy statement, the Anglican Diocese of Sydney says incoming school heads must instead show they are of Christian faith and character, be actively involved in a Bible-based church and sign “a personal commitment to organisational faithfulness”. The plan to scrap the clause opposing gay marriage – which was inserted into a general statement of faith in 2019 – comes after the matter sparked an outpouring of anger and frustration among Anglican school leaders and provoked intense backlash from parents. (27 Aug 2023)
Read more at The Age
ACT: A former senior member of the Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn has criticised the ACT government for the way it passed legislation decriminalising some drugs, calling its tactics “appalling” and raising alarm over whether the same “lack of due process” will be applied to its looming voluntary assisted dying laws. Former vicar general Tony Percy – who has gone toe to toe with the ACT government in recent months over its forced acquisition of the Calvary Hospital – said he was becoming increasingly concerned over the 'total lack of transparency' in how major reforms progressed." (28 Aug 2023)
Read more at The Australian
WA: West Australian Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis has voiced her support for abortion law changes in the state by sharing her own experience after she was raped in the early 1990s. She said she was grateful for the care and compassion she received from the GP she went to see at the time, who referred her for an abortion despite it still being illegal under WA laws at the time. Under the bill currently being debated by the upper house abortion will be fully decriminalised in WA, bringing the state legislation in line with much of the rest of the country. (30 Aug 2023)
Read more at The Age
Commentary and Analysis
Lucy Hamilton: We can’t ignore politicians’ Christianity any longer
"It has been traditional for journalists and public figures to respect the individual political candidate’s religion as private. America shows us the danger of creeping Christian Nationalism erupting into prominence, and we can’t wave that away as a distant threat. ... Pentecostalism became intertwined with QAnon over the worst of the pandemic, and its messaging has pervaded much of the “freedom” movement that gathered pace over the era. The religious movement’s demand that people believe wild tenets and disdain empirical knowledge makes it an easy vehicle for conspiracy. The Liberal Party is dependent upon this anti-woke coalition to regain power. ... Australians need to know which kind of Christianity our candidates represent: a private morality or the authoritarian enforcement of their own bizarre interpretation of Christ’s dominion." (29 Aug 2023)
Read more at The AIMN
Karen Middleton: Defence ostracised chaplain over abuse claims
"A senior military chaplain – who tried to stop another chaplain from reporting her own allegations that a colleague had indecently assaulted, abused and harassed her – was subsequently given a Defence role supporting the royal commission [into Defence and veterans’ suicides]... Uniting Church minister and military ethics specialist the Reverend Dr Nikki Coleman told the commission a colleague began abusing her in 2019 when she was a serving member of the ADF and a chaplain to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). After enduring it for three months, she approached a senior chaplain to seek advice and help. The senior chaplain advised against reporting it, quoting a Bible verse about keeping things in-house. "His advice to me initially was to manage it myself because complaints of this nature have to be managed at the lowest level," Coleman said. ... After Coleman’s testimony this week, The Saturday Paper confirmed the senior chaplain who discouraged her complaint and then insisted she water it down is among dozens of Defence personnel appointed to assist the royal commission in its work, in roles that include providing support to Defence witnesses. (2 Sep 2023)
Read more at The Saturday Paper
Events and Campaigns
The inaugural Secularism Australia Conference will be held in Sydney on 2 December 2023. Early-bird tickets are on sale until 7 October.
Learn more at the Secularism Australia website
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. Submissions close 8 September 2023.
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.