Weekend Wrap for 5 May 2024

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 5 May 2024, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

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At the National Level

Former members of a fundamentalist Christian sect known informally as the Two by Twos (it has no formal name) are hoping an FBI investigation into the group will finally deliver justice for victims of child sexual abuse. The ABC revealed that more than 100 Australian victims have contacted a hotline for survivors. Advocates are hoping for a similar investigation into the sect in Australia, where it has around 8,000 members. (29 Apr 2024)
Listen to this report at ABC News

Olympic legend and high-profile community member Ian Thorpe has joined a new national campaign calling for urgent federal reform to protect women and LGBTQ+ students and staff in religious schools. The campaign is led by national advocacy group Equality Australia, in light of a recent report from the organisation which found that LGBTQ+ discrimination is endemic in religious schools and organisations around the nation. “This is about treating people fairly,” Thorpe said. “Everyone should be protected under the law and no one should be granted permission to discriminate, especially if being funded by our tax dollars.” (30 Apr 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

Australia's royal commission into institutional child sexual abuse not only helped survivors, it was also good for many of the churches where the abuse occurred. A new study from the Australian Catholic University finds that where governments drove major investigations, churches have imposed much stronger safeguards for children. (1 May 2024)
Listen to this piece at ABC Religion & Ethics

Around the Country

NSW: Liverpool City Council union workers chanted “Put some pork on your fork” and held up a plastic pig in a protest directed at the region’s Muslim mayor last week ahead of a fiery council meeting that ended with police being called. Tensions between union members and the council reached boiling point last Wednesday when the United Services Union held a protest outside Liverpool’s new civic centre, protesting against rumoured job cuts. Mannoun, an American Lebanese-Australian, said on Monday morning the protest was “completely Islamophobic and antisemitic,” referring to similar rules in Judaism that outlaw eating pork. (29 Apr 2024)
Read more at The Age

WA: An Albany doctor and local councillor who incorrectly claimed people sexually attracted to children were part of the LGBTQIA+ community has been preselected by the WA Liberal Party. Local Liberal branch members chose Thomas Brough on Tuesday as their candidate for the state seat of Albany at next year's state election. (1 May 2024)
Read more at ABC News

NSW: A protester caused disruption during a statement by Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher at a NSW parliamentary inquiry into Independent MP Alex Greenwich's Equality Legislation Amendment (LGBTIQA+) Bill 2023, which seeks to change 20 acts of parliament in order to, amongst other things, make it easier for transgender people to record a sex change on legal documents. Archbishop Fisher described the legislation as having an "anti-religious undercurrent", and went on to say that self-identification of sex on legal documents would put women-only spaces at risk and make it "near-impossible" to retain religious customs. Examples he gave were single-sex prayer, opposite-sex weddings, male-only ordainments, and single-sex schooling. (1 May 2024)
Read more at ABC News

WA: West Australian parents hoping to send their children to a Catholic school don’t need to be practicing the religion to enrol them, but it does help. Some parents have quietly admitted on social media they have either joined the local church, changed churches to the one affiliated with a particular school, or baptised their children to increase the chances of being offered a place. University of Western Australia school of social sciences head and demographer Amanda Davies said there was considerable evidence regarding the ‘urban myth’ families have their children baptised or christened primarily due to school choice. (2 May 2024)
Read more at The Age

QLD: After years of campaigning, sex work has officially been decriminalised in Queensland. QLD state parliament passed the historic legislation on Thursday evening. Decriminalising sex work aims to enable better regulation and safer working conditions, and workplace health and safety rules. (3 May 2024)
Read more at the Star Observer

WA: Local LGBTQIA+ advocacy consortium Rainbow Futures WA (RFWA) have welcomed the Cook Government’s announcement of gender-focused law reform, but say WA still has much to do. In April, Premier Roger Cook and Attorney General John Quigley put forward what they described as the “first tranche” of legislation for LGBTIQA+ reform. The Births, Death, Marriages Registration Amendment (Sex or Gender Changes) Bill 2024 will remove the requirement for West Australians to present to the Gender Reassignment Board to legally affirm their gender and introduce a new administrative process for people seeking to amend legal documents. (3 May 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

NSW: A state MP is urging the Education Minister to look at school data obtained by NBN News… which he describes as “shocking”. Greg Piper believes the government should consider moving scripture lessons out of hours… with enrolments as low as one per cent. (4 May 2024)
Watch this story at NBN News

Commentary and Analysis

Brian Grieg (Just.Equal): Quigley gender reform bill takes WA backwards
"The transgender law reform bill proposed by the Cook Government is inadequate and retrograde. It does not bring us into line with other states; it is miles away from ‘gold standard’ legislation established in Tasmania five years ago. It is weaker legislation than exists in Queensland, Victoria and the ACT. It is weaker than the proposed reform in NSW advocated through Mr Alex Greenwich MP’s ‘Equality Bill’." (30 Apr 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

Timothy Costelloe (Archbishop of Perth): Changing measure of faith will weaken census data
"The ABS appears to be seeking to weaken the accuracy of one of these measures by changing the census question about faith. The most significant change is the removal of tick box options for people who wish to record their religion. ... The proposed new question disengages religion from culture and identity. The existing question, “What is your religion?”, assesses religious identification as part of a person’s culture and heritage, serving as an essential marker of other attributes and behaviour. The responses hold significant value for religious leaders, scholars, govern­ment, not-for-profit organisations and sociologists of religion. Data from this question has helped demonstrate and monitor changes in Australia’s multicultural character." (30 Apr 2024)
Read more at The Australian

Neil Foster: Church liability for clergy abuse
"The High Court of Australia recently heard an appeal in a case involving an allegation that a Bishop in the Roman Catholic church can be held vicariously liable for an act of child abuse committed by a member of the clergy. The case is Bird v DP (a pseudonym) and I have previously mentioned the earlier stages of the proceedings here and here. I have written a note outlining the arguments being made and offering my view on what I think should be the outcome of the appeal..." (30 Apr 2024)
Read more at Law and Religion Australia

John Warhust: The Greens, the Church and freedom of religion
"Catholic church leaders have often demonstrated a particular antagonism towards Australia’s leading minor party, the Greens. Are there any consequences from this for either the church or the party or is it a minor matter? Both major parties still prefer to have the church onside, despite its numerical decline and declining credibility following institutional child sexual abuse. But the Greens may not worry. Younger Catholics also probably care very little what their church leaders say. The antagonism exists at both federal and state level. The relationship is currently on display as the federal parliament moves again towards anti-discrimination and freedom of religion legislation." (1 May 2024)
Read more at Eureka Street

Garry Worete Deverell: Scraps from the table: Apologies, equivocations, and handwringing from church leaders at the Yoorrook Justice Commission
"Archbishop Peter Comensoli, of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, struck me as somewhat more equivocal with this ownership of this [destructive church] history. He was at pains to point out that Catholics ran no missions in Victoria and had very little to do with the setting of Aboriginal policy at the level of colonial administration. Here he made a convenient and — in the wake of public enquiries into the sexual abuse of children — now familiar distinction between the Church acting as an institution and Catholics acting as private citizens. A distinction which means little when one considers that Catholics, like all Christians, tend to act as their churchly imaginations allow. And the churchly imagination most dominantly at play in this country was, and remains, profoundly racist and deeply colonial. Even when Christian settlers intended to do good, they did evil instead. For their version of 'goodness' was deeply embedded in habits of mind and heart that took black inferiority and the virtue of white Christian civilisation for granted. And, as we shall see, this is still the case." (2 May 2024)
Read more at ABC Religion & Ethics

Justine Toh (Centre for Public Christianity): Morrison broke a taboo with anxiety, but he’s broken a bigger one in his book
"Everyone’s talking about Scott Morrison’s struggles with anxiety as prime minister. He’s been praised, rightly, for breaking that taboo. But if we still feel awkward, it’s because he broke another: Morrison’s book makes his private faith very, very public, and we don’t know what to do with it. ...as Sean Kelly relates in The Game: A Portrait of Scott Morrison, the former member for Cook would bristle when reporters asked him to reconcile his Christianity with the Coalition’s refugee policy. No one envies the terrible compromises politicians must make, but Morrison’s defensive silences fed suspicions that he called on faith at his convenience." (3 May 2024)
Read more at The Age

Paul Gregoire: Police Are Quick to Label Muslim Teens as Terrorists, But the Same Doesn’t Apply to Others
"The Alliance of Australian Muslims released a 26 April statement about the recent terror raids in Sydney, which were sparked by a 16-year-old Muslim boy stabbing a priest and led to six more Muslim teenagers being charged with terrorism for allegedly having thought about planning a terrorist act. A clear issue here is that while terrorism is defined as an act done to advance a political, religious or ideological cause, and the stabbing was linked to religion, should a teen taking discussions with his mates too seriously, to the point of committing crime, result in decades of prison time for them all?" (3 May 2024)
Read more at Sydney Criminal Lawyers

Deborah Snow: ‘Vulnerable cohort’: What is it about teenagers and terrorism – and what is being done?
"The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils report slammed the raids' 'excessive force ... [which] not only directly impacted the individuals involved but … resonated negatively across the broader community'. The federation says the failure of authorities to consider alternatives to a 'security-only' approach risks creating 'a cyclical problem where heavy-handed security measures feed the very radicalisation they aim to prevent'. It is now calling for an overhaul of the country’s national security regime, including the removal of 'religious cause' from the definition of terrorism, adoption of a more nuanced approach where minors are identified as a terrorism risk, and redoubled resourcing for community engagement, early prevention and mental health. Federation chief executive Kamalle Dabboussy says: 'The policing response should be the last resort, but it appears to be the first resort at the moment.'" (4 May 2024)
Read more at The Age

Events and Campaigns

Griffith University researchers are exploring Registered Nurses’ and Nurse Practitioners’ willingness to participate in Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD).
Read more at The Lamp

Volume 4 of the Australian Journal of Law and Religion, a special issue on “Theology and Jurisprudence”, has been published online.
Read more at Law and Religion Australia

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!

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