Weekend Wrap for 5 February 2023

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 5 February 2023 -- the first for the new year -- where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country. Although we typically cover the last seven days' news, we do occasionally reach back a little further if something of importance has been missed.

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Do you have any news items, campaigns, petitions, webinars or other event notices that could be added to our weekly Wrap? Let us know at wrap@nsl.org.au.

At the National Level

Explanations are being sought by the Rationalist Society of Australia as to why the pastoral care needs of the Navy might differ from those of the other branches of the defence forces. Asked about the Navy’s introduction of secular roles to its chaplaincy branch, Pentecostal pastor Ralph Estherby said he was "not necessarily completely convinced" that the other services would follow suit with a similar model as “…the same problems that were present in Navy are not present in Army and are not necessarily being argued." (24 Jan 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Pope Francis has spoken out against laws that make same-sex sexual activity illegal, and has called for the end of these laws, something a Pope has never done. He stated that such laws are "unjust" and the Church should strive to help get rid of them. (26 Jan 2023)
Read more at the Star Observer

An independent evaluation of The National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) has found there are benefits of having chaplains in schools, but has endorsed plans to broaden the scheme to include secular support staff. The report stated there was a place for chaplains but that there were also risks with the flexible nature of the program. All Australian education ministers have now signed a new, five-year funding agreement worth $307 million. (28 Jan 2023)
Read more at ABC News

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has acknowledged concerns about potential bias in the wording of the Census question on religion, listing it among key concerns raised during a public consultation held as part of a Census review. (29 Jan 2023)
Read more at the Census21 - Not Religious? campaign website

The federal government has warned an independent investigator could be appointed following a state probe, to determine if schools affiliated with the small-but-powerful Catholic organisation Opus Dei have breached the Commonwealth Education Act. (31 Jan 2023)
Read more at the ABC

Catholic schools are expected to rally against a proposal to restrict their hiring and firing powers in a reform aimed at protecting LGBTQ+ students and teachers. The Australian Law Reform Commission has released a consultation paper proposing to remove existing exemptions to the Sex Discrimination Act that enable discrimination, which Catholic schools have warned would undermine their ethos. (31 Jan 2023)
Read more at The Guardian

Representatives of the country’s largest chaplaincy provider have stated that it is "a myth" that chaplains are not allowed to talk about Jesus and God as part of their role working with students in public schools. A recent evaluation of the National School Chaplaincy Program claimed there was "insufficient evidence" to suggest that proselytising – explicitly banned under the program – was happening, despite the evaluation report detailing testimonials from students that chaplains had done exactly that. (1 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Around the Country

VIC: The state government will consider a ban on the Nazi salute amid a push to outlaw the gesture in Victoria. Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes will meet representatives of the Jewish community to discuss stepping up prohibitions already in place on Nazi symbols and flags. (27 Jan 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

NSW: NSW's powerful education authority is investigating Sydney schools linked to Opus Dei amid a war of words between the ultra-conservative Catholic group and the public broadcaster. The ABC’s Four Corners is planning to air a program on Monday night titled Purity: An Education in Opus Dei, alleging "disturbing practices" by the controversial organisation in several schools and exploring its influence in the NSW Liberal Party. (28 Jan 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

QLD: For years, Queenslanders wanting to change the gender on their birth certificates have needed gender affirmation surgery first. Under new draft laws, a person wanting to formally register a change of sex would need a supporting statement from someone who has known them for at least 12 months. No surgery would be required. (30 Jan 2023)
Read more at SBS News

NSW: Premier Dominic Perrottet has defended parental choice in education as his former school faces allegations of preaching hardline religious views on sexuality. He said: "It’s not a crime to be Catholic." Broadcast on Monday, a Four Corners episode explores what it describes as "disturbing practices" at a group of NSW schools affiliated with the ultra-conservative Catholic prelature Opus Dei. (30 Jan 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

NSW: The boss of the powerful NSW clubs industry body has been sacked despite apologising for bringing religion into the debate over cashless pokies. ClubsNSW chief executive Josh Landis said Dominic Perrottet had "acted from his conservative Catholic gut" on the issue. Mr Perrottet said the comment was "incredibly inappropriate and offensive to people of faith" and "an attack on every single person of faith in our state." (31 Jan 2023)
Read more at SBS News

WA: A survivor of child sexual abuse who launched legal proceedings against the Christian Brothers around 18 months ago, after WA abolished the statute of limitations on such action, claims that the Catholic Church "are very adversarial and make it very traumatic for survivors to go through the legal process," and has called for a more streamlined civil action process. (31 Jan 2023)
Read more at The West Australian

NSW: A Sydney pastor and newly-elected member of the Liberal Democrats state executive called for the death penalty for homosexuals in a 2016 sermon posted online. Victor Tey, who now says he no longer holds such extreme views, also ran as a candidate in the 2022 federal election for the Liberal Democrats in the seat of Werriwa, placing third with almost 10,000 votes. (31 Jan 2023)
Read more at the Daily Telegraph

NSW: NSW Police on Wednesday backed down in their attempt to ban LGBTQI protestors from marching during Cardinal George Pell’s funeral at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on February 2. LGBTQI group Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR) is scheduled to hold a march in Sydney CBD coinciding with the funeral on Thursday morning to denounce his legacy of homophobia and opposition to women’s rights. NSW Police on Wednesday made an urgent application before the Supreme Court to stop the protest march from going ahead, citing safety concerns. (1 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Star Observer

NSW: Survivors of child sexual abuse and their supporters have been involved in a heated clash with a group of people outside a Sydney church on the eve of Cardinal George Pell's funeral. Hundreds of colourful ribbons were tied to the fence and gates of Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral yesterday in a silent memorial symbolising the hurt caused by child sexual abuse. But tensions flared last night when a group of men and women with scissors and knives began cutting down the ribbons and shouting homophobic slurs. (2 Feb 2023)
Read more at ABC News

NSW: NSW Police detained two men and a woman at a protest by LGBTQI community members and child sexual abuse survivors outside Cardinal George Pell’s funeral, which was held at Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral on Thursday. (2 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Star Observer

VIC: A group of Victorian councillors has written to the state government calling for guidelines to end Christian prayers in local council meetings. The letter, sent on Tuesday and signed by 21 councillors from across the state, argues widespread use of a single faith’s prayers at the start of meetings is "inconsistent with the multicultural and multi-faith diversity of the communities the council represents". (3 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

TAS: An anti-trans group held a small protest outside the Hobart Aquatic Centre Friday morning over the all-inclusive change rooms. According to the group, biological males shouldn’t be given access to female-only spaces and change rooms. The group, LGB Tasmania, staged the protest against the council swimming pool’s trans-inclusive policy which had been in place for four years. (4 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Star Observer

Commentary and Analysis

John Frew: Labor abandons public education.
"The evidence to support the existence of a two-tiered system is clear and freely available. Families with incomes above $100,000 send their kids to private schools, 40% to Independent and 21% the Catholic yet only 5% of families who have an income less than $25,000 attend private schools and these are predominantly Catholic. Private school enrolments have increased by 70% since 2012 when Gillard’s resolve collapsed when she was confronted by the private school lobby. The total failure of Gillard’s attempt to reform funding is evident. Over the last 20 years Government funding for the private sector has risen 98.7% compared to 53% increase for public schools, the majority has occurred in the last ten years." (25 Jan 2023)
Read more at Pearls & Irritations

Neil Foster: Removing fences: the ALRC Consultation Paper on Religious Educational Institutions and Discrimination Laws.
"The Australian Law Reform Commission has now released a Consultation Paper for its current reference on “Religious Educational Institutions and Anti-Discrimination Laws”. The paper, while formally acknowledging the importance of religious freedom and parental rights, will be a serious disappointment to those involved in religious schools and colleges. It effectively recommends the removal of protections enjoyed by religious educational institutions which have been designed to safeguard the ability of these organisations to operate in accordance with their religious beliefs." (29 Jan 2023)
Read more at Law and Religion Australia

Miles Pattenden: Pope Francis’s "sin–crime distinction" and the history of Christian sexuality.
"Last week, Pope Francis weighed in once again on the Catholic Church’s seemingly interminable debate over homosexuality. I wrote last year about the late Cardinal George Pell's disagreement with German bishops on the matter – an incident which the pope himself let quietly slide. Yet the pope has now criticised the criminalisation of homosexuality as 'unjust'." (30 Jan 2023)
Read more at ABC Religion & Ethics

Louise Milligan, Mary Fallon and Stephanie Zillman: Power and purity.
"Four Corners has heard stories from dozens of former students of Tangara and its brother school, Redfield College, which are both affiliated with the small-but-powerful Catholic organisation known as Opus Dei. In interviews with more than 30 alumni and some parents, more disturbing practices have been alleged. Students say they were told that watching pornography caused holes in the brain, girls were discouraged from getting a life-saving cancer vaccine, pages on the curriculum were ripped out or redacted from text books, homophobia was rife and there were persistent attempts to recruit school students to Opus Dei. Many former students say their schooling left them with psychological damage. After Four Corners contacted the New South Wales premier about these allegations, Dominic Perrottet immediately asked the NSW Education Standards Authority to launch an investigation into the schools." (30 Jan 2023)
Read more at ABC News

Paul Gregoire: Go to Hell Pell: CARR’s April Holcombe on Protesting the Cardinal’s Funeral.
"Since Cardinal George Pell died of a cardiac arrest on 10 January, campaigners against institutional child sexual exploitation and abuse within the church have been tying coloured ribbons to the fence outside of Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral in support of youths who have suffered at the hands of the clergy. Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR) further points out that Pell was also one of the most ardent conservative political commentators over recent decades, as he campaigned against LGBTQ rights, marriage equality and reproductive freedom. ... Sydney Criminal Lawyers spoke to CARR co-convenor April Holcombe about the harms caused by the former Sydney archbishop’s reactionary campaigning, the fact that the protest is also against the conservative elite in attendance and the destruction Pell left in his wake." (31 Jan 2023)
Read more at Sydney Criminal Lawyers

The Age (Editorial): Church must acknowledge Pell’s tainted legacy.
"Ahead of the public viewing of [Cardinal Pell's] body, a small group calling itself Loud Fence tied blue, yellow, red, purple and orange ribbons to a gate as a symbol of solidarity and silent protest against the Catholic Church’s response to institutional child sexual abuse. ... For the church to then send security guards to cut the ribbons away, apparently at the instruction of the cathedral’s general manager, spoke volumes. It was insensitive. It was petty. It was tone-deaf. It suggested the church, despite mountains of evidence about the damage caused by its plague of paedophile priests, still could not bring itself to engage civilly with those it had damaged for life." (1 Feb 2023)
Read more at The Age

Simon Hunt: As George Pell departs, every ribbon tells a story the church tried to silence.
"As people arrived one by one to put up ribbons at St Mary’s Cathedral over the past week, Ballarat child abuse survivor Paul Auchettl would quietly approach them. Every person had a story about their own experience of abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church, or stories of abuse suffered by someone they loved. Children would emerge from the faces of 60-year-old men and women, and Auchettl would guide them through the release that the tying of a ribbon would bring, like a contemporary shaman. Every day the fence would be picked “clean” of the presence of abused children that each ribbon represents. It was this removal that most deeply troubled Auchettl and his fellow Ballarat survivor Trevor Coad, who accompanied him to Sydney." (1 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

Sonia Hickey: Protesting Pell’s Legacy of Enabling Child Sex Offences.
"As George Pell’s body lays in state at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney in preparation today’s mass, there are tens of thousands of ribbons being tied to fences surrounding the church. The ribbons are intended as a reminder of those who suffered sexual abuse as children by Catholic priests. The Church keeps removing the ribbons. It’s a small act, but a defiant one at a time when emotions are running high. And, for many Australians, it is this kind of arrogance and defiance that sums up the Catholic Church’s continued response to the collective voice of victims of child sexual abuse, which seems to suggest the Church wants to pretend these victims don’t exist." (2 Feb 2023)
Read more at Sydney Criminal Lawyers

Jordan Baker: As Pell the man is laid to rest, Pell the martyr rises.
"Among mourners at Cardinal George Pell’s Requiem Mass, grief was imbued with defiance. ... Despite stark findings from the royal commission about Pell’s failure to protect children from paedophile priests, many believed they were mourning a visionary targeted by non-believers for his faith." (2 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

Margot Saville: Perrottet is no slave to his ‘Catholic gut’, but religion does cross into politics.
"A gratuitous attack on Premier Dominic Perrottet’s Catholicism has spotlighted the problematic relationship between religion and politics in this country. Clubs NSW boss Josh Landis was roundly condemned – and sacked – for saying the premier’s gambling reforms were driven by his 'Catholic gut', insinuating his religious faith was influencing policy. I was one of the many people profoundly concerned about Perrottet’s religious background when he ascended to NSW’s top office. The school he attended had links to Opus Dei, and I considered him to be an extremist and out of touch with mainstream Australia. But, like many, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by his actions in the job." (2 Feb 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

Kirsten Tona: The Sins of the Georges.
"For a man like Pell, only other men of great power are of interest. The little people are just that, little. He reveals his identification with power and dismissal of those who lack it again, in his testimony to the child sexual abuse Royal Commission, when he justifies his reason for glossing over the dangerous sexual proclivities of certain priests, moving them from parish to parish when the complaints got too loud, rather than confining them away from children. 'It was a sad story,' he tells the Commission from his comfortable sinecure in Rome, 'and of not much interest to me.'" (4 Feb 2023)
Read more at The AIMN

Belinda Jones: Blurry new report sheds little light on contentious school Chaplaincy Program.
"Many students, parents and non-school-based stakeholders complained that the NSCP is not secular and they held strong views on the importance of governments and public schools remaining secular. Said one parent (or guardian): 'The role is a great idea. Just make it secular.' The NSCP, in its current form, is untenable and requires a massive overhaul to make it functional, equitable and fit for purpose to meet community needs and manage associated risks before the Federal Government recommits to new agreements with states and territories." (4 Feb 2023)
Read more at Independent Australia

Events and Campaigns

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has released a Consultation Paper and sought a response from the general public about proposed new anti-discrimination rules that will make it illegal for religious schools to expel students or sack staff "on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status, or pregnancy in schools". Submissions close 24 February 2023.
Read more (and make a submission) at the ALRC

The Joint Standing Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme are holding an inquiry into the operations of the National Redress Scheme. Written submissions are due by Monday 27 February 2023.
Read more at the Australian Parliament House website

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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