Weekend Wrap for 30 April 2023

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 30 April 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

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At the National Level

The Rationalist Society of Australia has sought answers from Australia's Defence ministers about publicly expressed views of a number of Australian Defence Force chaplains, including views claiming same-sex marriage as 'bereft of the fullness' and 'often quite harmful', and non-religious people suffering from being 'self-deceiving'. The RSA argued that some Defence chaplains held views that were incompatible with delivering appropriate care for Defence personnel. (24 Apr 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Survivors say the findings of misconduct against the former governor general Peter Hollingworth mean he should be stripped of his $357,000-a-year pension and lucrative taxpayer-funded entitlements. The Anglican church’s complaints process on Monday made multiple findings of misconduct against Hollingworth over his time as Brisbane archbishop in the 1990s, when he allowed two abusers, John Elliot and Donald Shearman, to remain in the church despite knowing they had sexually assaulted children. Despite the misconduct findings, the church’s professional standards tribunal also recommended Hollingworth be kept on as a priest and that he was fit for ministry, provided he apologised and was reprimanded. Survivors and advocacy groups – already incensed at the delayed, secretive Anglican complaints process – described the recommendations as a “whitewash”. (25 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Guardian

The office of Veterans' Affairs and Defence Personnel minister Matt Keogh says military commemorations such as Anzac Day services 'remain welcoming to all', despite mounting criticism that ceremonial activities are too religious and, specifically, too Christian. Religious rituals once again dominated this year's Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, with the proceedings including a hymn, a dedication with reference to God, prayers of commemoration, the Lord’s Prayer and benediction – mostly presided over by a Christian Defence chaplain. (25 Apr 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Faith leaders have criticised the delay of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into religious discrimination laws in schools as 'very frustrating,' warning there is growing doubt over the government's ability to pass legislation this term. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus last week announced that the ALRC review – due to be handed to government last week – would be pushed out until the end of the year following a request from the inquiry’s head, Justice Stephen Rothman. (26 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Australian

Religious institutions that run aged care homes do not have to show they are spending millions of dollars in government grants on resident care thanks to an “alarming lack of transparency” in the system, an industry analyst has claimed. Jason Ward of the Centre for International Corporate Tax Accountability and Research pointed to the example of Blue Care, which has about 47 residential aged care facilities with 5,173 residents. Blue Care is run by UnitingCare Queensland, which sent $25.7m to the Queensland synod of the Uniting church last financial year. The source of this money is not revealed in financial statements as UnitingCare Queensland does not provide segmented breakdowns for its many operations. Ward said the lack of transparency was alarming given the sector’s ongoing calls for more federal funding to continue operating. (26 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Guardian

A push to allow Voluntary Assisted Dying medical consultations to occur via telehealth will be decided by a Federal Court judge next month, unless the federal government acts sooner. A Melbourne VAD doctor has sought a legal ruling from the court on whether or not a federal law banning the use of phone or internet to “counsel” suicide applies to state VAD systems. The application by St Kilda based-doctor Nick Carr will be the subject of a hearing before Justice Debra Mortimer, expected in late May. (27 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Australian

The federal government is facing growing calls to provide greater access to contraception, and free medical and surgical abortions at all public hospitals. A final senate inquiry hearing into universal access to reproductive healthcare has heard there is significant need to develop a national abortion fund in the upcoming federal budget. The proposed fund would provide people across the country who are living in financial distress with a pathway to sexual and reproductive health care, and bridge gaps in the public health system. (29 Apr 2023)
Read more at ABC News

Around the Country

NSW: Katherine Deves, the controversial, failed Liberal party candidate for the seat of Warringah, has announced she’s changed her mind about being a candidate for the senate spot left by the death of NSW senator Jim Molan. (23 Apr 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth

QLD: Queensland will decriminalise sex work after a major review found it should be treated as a job, not a crime, and regulated the same as other businesses. The Palaszczuk government asked the Queensland Law Reform Commission to review and recommend a framework for a decriminalised sex work industry. It made 47 recommendations – including removing sex work licensing. Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said the government is "broadly supportive" of the recommendations, however, will need to consult with stakeholders. (24 Apr 2023)
Read more at ABC News

VIC: Beloved Catholic priest and social justice campaigner Father Bob Maguire will be honoured with a state funeral at St Patrick’s Cathedral after he died, aged 88, last week. Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed on Tuesday that Maguire’s family had accepted the offer of a state funeral. (25 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Age

TAS: Tasmanian Labor has vowed to extend race hate laws to also cover crimes motivated by transphobia, homophobia and potentially sexism. The move would allow judges and magistrates to impose a tougher sentence on offenders motivated by such hatreds, and has been hailed by activists. Labor justice spokeswoman Ella Haddad told The Australian the new provision would apply to violent and physical crimes, such as assault, and followed representations by Equality Tasmania. (25 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Australian

SA: At the latest Adelaide City Council meeting, the Lord Mayor, Jane Lomax-Smith, changed the practice of reciting aloud Christian prayers at the opening of proceedings. Instead, Lomax-Smith invited councillors to 'read the prayer as printed or reflect in a manner appropriate to their beliefs on these issues'. Following the meeting, Lord Mayor Lomax-Smith posted a video of the moment on her Facebook page. She argued that the meeting procedures had not changed but that now every councillor had a choice of reading the prayer or reflecting in their own way. "In response to media reports about the City of Adelaide 'dumping' the prayer – our meeting procedures have not changed and the prayer remains. I am giving people a moment of reflection in which they can either read the Lord's prayer as shown on our monitors or read another text important to them," she said. (27 Apr 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

ACT: Children are born either male or female but a very rare number will be born with biological variations in their sex characteristics, including in their hormones, genitalia, or chromosomes. These children are sometimes called intersex or, more broadly, people with variations in sex characteristics. While the community is tiny, some of its members hope proposed laws in the ACT will lead to big changes in the way society, and the medical and legal systems, treat them. The bill will introduce tougher regulations on certain irreversible medical treatments on children and it aims to give them more say over what happens to their bodies. (28 Apr 2023)
Read more at ABC News

NSW: Abortion rights advocates say they have a "sense of hope" after a regional NSW council voted to formally advocate for improved access to abortion in a city long plagued by a lack of services. At this week's council meeting, seven of eight Wagga Wagga City councillors voted to adopt a 2023 advocacy plan that formally calls on "the state and federal governments, local health district, hospital staff, GPs, and other organisations [to] increase access to medical and surgical abortions". The city has been previously criticised over a "culture of silence" around abortion by medical practitioners. (28 Apr 2023)
Read more at ABC News

NSW: Mark Latham’s repeated homophobic commentary is unworthy of a parliamentarian, according to the incoming New South Wales Liberal leader, Mark Speakman. Latham on Thursday reiterated offensive comments he made about homosexuality and Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, while suggesting the federal One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson, could not understand “how straight men feel about this”. (28 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Guardian

Commentary and Analysis

Simone Fox Koob, Amelia Adams and Laura Sparkes: Raised with demons: How the Potter’s House church keeps its followers under control.
"Extensive interviews with former members paint a picture of a group which exerts unhealthy levels of control over its members. Those in leadership or who have active roles in the church cannot own a television or watch movies or drink alcohol. Followers are strongly advised not to date anyone from outside the church, and women are expected to be subservient in marriage. Same-sex relationships are classed as “sexual sin” and “perverted behaviour”. ... Financial records lodged with the Australian charity regulator show that the smallest churches, which are referred to as pioneer or baby churches, also tithe a portion of their money to their “mother” church, as well as to the largest church in the country, located in Perth, which in the 2021 financial year brought in $3.3 million in revenue. A portion is then sent from Australia to the head church in Prescott, Arizona, creating a pyramid-like financial structure." (23 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Age

Jarryd Bartle: The Hypocrisy and Absurdity of Christian Groups Accusing LGBT People of Child Sexual Abuse.
"A recent trend in conservative politics, particularly online, involves accusing LGBT people of “grooming” children – either into a particular sexual identity or to facilitate abuse. ... This article takes a look at our nation’s shameful history of groundlessly demonising LGBT people by falsely claiming they disproportionately commit abuses against children, and outlines the definition of “grooming” under New South Wales criminal law to show that if any group should be the focus of vitriol, it should be religious institutions and not LGBT people." (24 Apr 2023)
Read more at Sydney Criminal Lawyers

Neil Foster: Volume 2 of Australian Journal of Law and Religion available.
The second issue of the Australian Journal of Law and Religion is now available online. There are a number of important issues relating to state and federal law covered. (24 Apr 2023)
Read more at Law and Religion Australia

Simone Fox Koob, Amelia Adams & Laura Sparkes: Nick was told to 'cast demons out' because he was gay. Now he questions his old church's charity status.
More than 20 former members have told this masthead that the church has an unhealthy level of control over the lives of its followers. Television, non-Christian movies and music are banned, members must marry within the church, and those who leave are shunned. Followers, including young children, are taught to fear the devil and the prospect of hell if they fail to pray enough or repent their sins. 'They are not spreading religion to the community; they are spreading fear and lies to vulnerable people.'" (25 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Age

The Age Editorial: Tread carefully when it comes to rules on religious groups’ charitable status.
"The allegations made to this masthead regarding the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship, a Pentecostal denomination which has 72 churches registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, have led to calls from former church members for the re-examination of rules around religious groups claiming charitable status. ... However, when it comes to the practice of religion, majorities need to tread carefully, for a number of reasons. While the law of the land may stand clearly in favour of abortion rights and same-sex marriage, in a free society we are also bound to respect the views of those whose conscience instructs them differently." (25 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Age

Brian Morris: ABC Veto of ‘Secular Voice’ a Mockery of 'Inclusion'.
"Most notable for the absence of panellists who are "overtly" secular or A-theist are The Drum and Q&A. Both run programs that regularly deal with socio-religious topics -- and with monotonous regularity their guests identify as religious. When was the last time you heard either of these programs question the basic tenets of Christianity? Case in Point -- just ONE recent example. Q&A on 10th April ran the theme "Faith, Politics and Humanity". Another all-Christian panel, including the host, Stan Grant. It was non-stop sermonising and a talkfest of Christian morals -- and Islamic morals too, from ALP senator Fatima Payman. There was no voice to say ethics and morals are not exclusive to religion! Just watch the Q&A video link -- is this "balance", or religious proselytising?" (25 Apr 2023)
Read more at the National Secular Lobby

Madeleine Heffernan and Nicole Precel: 'Pain and pushback': Religious schools carve out a place for faith among modern views.
"Religious schools are adjusting to keep up with an increasingly secular society, but it’s not without “pain and pushback,” as they juggle traditional views with progressive students. The role of religion in schools is back in the spotlight after the Presbyterian Church of Australia said its schools should be able to block sexually active and gay students from becoming school leaders. In response, one of the church’s Melbourne schools, Scotch College, said it encouraged every student to take leadership positions without discrimination. It said it was governed by the school council, not the church. The comments sparked fresh discussions about how religious beliefs are reflected in schools attended by young people who are more secular, gender diverse and tech-savvy than previous generations." (26 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Age

Alison Courtice: 'Holding the line' on Religious Instruction for the Christian Right.
"Queensland’s education minister Grace Grace faces a decision of either listening to her Labor colleagues and their call to remove Religious Instruction (RI) from school hours, or “holding the line” for the Christian Right in the Liberal-National opposition. Following the public backlash in response to media reporting on how Christian missionaries view public schools as “mission fields” and kids ripe for “harvesting”, one would think that removing the RI program from class time would be ‘low-hanging fruit’ for the Palaszczuk government. ... Although a number of state Labor members of parliament have now spoken out against RI – with one, Don Brown, saying “time is up” for RI in state schools – the government has given no sign that it is considering reform on RI." (27 Apr 2023)
Read more at Rationale Magazine

Paul Heywood-Smith: Antisemitism and the IHRA definition.
"In a positive development, the University of Adelaide has rejected the adoption of the controversial IHRA definition of antisemitism, because to adopt it would have been potentially counter to 'the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech”, according to the University Council.'" (28 Apr 2023)
Read more at Pearls & Irritations

Geoffrey Robertson: In a land far, far away, a silly ritual will hand us ‘our’ new king and queen.
"In London, plans for the coronation of the King and Queen of Australia proceed apace. The ceremony is entirely unnecessary because Charles has been our lawful king from the moment of his mother’s death. This event has no meaning in law; it is merely a superstitious rite whereby God is supposed to anoint the King to run the Church of England, a church to which, according to our last census, only 9.8 per cent of Australians adhere." (28 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Age

Events and Campaigns

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.
View the petition at change.org

News Corp have begun a new podcast series, "Faith on Trial", investigating various stories relating to Hillsong, including alleged exploitation of staff, questionable treatment of Hillsong college students, and the trial of Brian Houston.
Listen to the podcast here

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.

Funding for public schools has been cut in the latest budget but funding for school chaplains has been assured. A change.org petition is currently calling on the federal government to fund youth workers rather faith-based chaplains in our public schools.

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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