Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 6 August 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 Australian defence force has a disproportionately high number of evangelical chaplains, with one Australian Christian Churches chaplain for every member who identifies with that denomination, new figures reveal. Critics argue ADF members shouldn’t be forced to receive care from someone with views that may differ vastly from their own – particularly when 80% of new recruits say they aren’t religious. In total, there are 108 pentecostal or evangelical chaplains representing 1,607 members. That means one in three chaplains in the ADF are pentecostal or evangelical while only 5% of members identify as followers. National Secular Lobby ambassador Associate Prof Paul Willis said the situation echoed the school chaplaincy program – which has also been criticised for being dominated by evangelical Christians. (30 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has failed in her bid to get the Senate to agree to a Parliamentary inquiry into gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Hanson’s motion was voted down 38- 25, despite support from conservative Liberal Senators like Alex Antic, Claire Chandler, Sarah Henderson, Michaelia Cash, and Matt Canavan. Following the defeat of the motion, Hanson issued a press release ranting against Labor, Greens and moderate Liberal Senators who refused to support what she termed a “harmless inquiry”. (4 Aug 2023)
Read more at the Star Observer
Muslim groups, religious leaders and experts have voiced alarm at the federal government’s push to ban a flag associated with Islamic State, saying it risks criminalising legitimate displays of Islamic imagery and infringing Muslims’ right to practise their religion. The government has introduced legislation that would ban the terrorist group’s flag as well as the display of Nazi symbols such as the swastika. The Australian National Imams Council said the push to ban the IS flag was analogous to banning the display of the Christian cross because it had been misappropriated by the Ku Klux Klan white supremacist group. (2 Aug 2023)
Read more at The Age
The Australian Christian Lobby has launched a new initiative encouraging their followers to scour their local libraries for books that they think might be suitable for complaints to authorities. Those who are quick to submit suggestions on books to be banned can win prizes. ACL spokesperson Wendy Francis said the ACL would campaign to have books with explicit material removed from schools and public libraries. (4 Aug 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth
As part of its public consultation process to review questions and make amendments for the 2026 Census, the ABS has revealed that it could introduce a filter question to establish whether someone has a religion before asking about their religious affiliation. On its website, the ABS said that feedback it had received during the first phase of public consultation included that “the way the question is currently asked assumes you have a religion”. (4 Aug 2023
Read more at censusnoreligion.org.au
Labor is facing growing opposition from conservative and Christian groups against a plan to toughen social media self-regulation of misinformation, including fresh claims from the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) that the proposal will "cancel Christian posts online". The ACL joins Family Voice, One Nation and the former Nationals MP George Christensen in campaigning against the bill. Its new claims come despite the communications minister, Michelle Rowland, releasing an exposure draft and guidance materials that explain Australian Communications and Media Authority will not gain the power to request specific content or posts be removed from digital platform services. (5 Aug 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
Around the Country
QLD: A number of Queensland public schools are pressuring parents and carers to accept the continuation of religious-based chaplaincy instead of providing them with a choice of secular wellbeing officers. The design of these materials appears to be inconsistent with the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 (Qld), which requires Queensland public servants to be “honest, respectful and fair” when engaging with the community. (30 Jul 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia
VIC: More private independent and religious schools will be added to the Victorian government’s payroll tax hit list if they make more than $15,000 in income per student, after the state reversed a decision that would have meant some schools would avoid paying the tax despite already crossing the threshold. The tax was originally planned to contribute $420 million towards covering the state’s COVID debts, but will reap $100 million less after the government lifted the threshold from $7500 to $15,000. Public schools are already liable for payroll tax but non-government schools have historically been exempt due to their not-for-profit status. (1 Aug 2023)
Read more at The Age
QLD: Queensland will explore all legal options after a court found the statewide ban against carrying religious weapons on school grounds to be racial discrimination. The ban was originally introduced following an incident at a NSW school two years ago in which one student stabbed another with a religious knife. Queensland law prohibited religious members from carrying the blade on school grounds, saying it was unreasonable to “physically possess a knife in a school for genuine religious purposes”. (3 Aug 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
NSW: Critics say a religious vilification bill that passed NSW parliament could have unforeseen impacts beyond protecting people of faith from ridicule and contempt. Amendments to the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 will make it unlawful to, “by a public act incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of a person or group of persons, because of their religious belief, affiliation or activity”. Civil liberty and LGBTQI advocates plan to protest the laws in a demonstration at Sydney’s Town Hall this weekend, saying the bill is too vague and could be used to protect hate speech against trans people or practices like gay conversion therapy. NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Josh Pallas said it is not fair religious belief gains more protections while religious organisations remain exempt from parts of the act allowing them to discriminate against others. (4 Aug 2023)
Read more at The New Daily
Watch a report on this story at ABC News
WA: In May this year, the state government released the findings of a ministerial expert panel's report into assisted reproductive technology (ART) and surrogacy, and supported almost all of the panel's recommendations. The current legislation limits surrogacy eligibility to single women and opposite sex couples where the woman cannot conceive a child due to 'medical reasons'. "Western Australia's legislation is discriminatory and out of date," said Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson. (5 Aug 2023)
Read more at ABC News
Commentary and Analysis
Travis Campbell, Nathaniel Tran and Samuel Mann: Trans youth are significantly more likely to attempt suicide when gender dysphoria is met with conversion therapy than with hormone treatment
"We found that supportive family environments and hormone replacement therapy that affirms a transgender child’s gender identity decrease their risk of suicide or running away from home, whereas unsupportive family environments and conversion therapy that denies their gender identity increase these risks." (31 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Conversation
Phillip Hoglin: Why the Army’s choice to serve God comes at a cost to the nation
"By parading through the streets of Adelaide, led by several white Christian male chaplains, and by conducting a Christian church service to proclaim the move of a regiment’s guidons – or ‘sacred flags’, as described by one news agency – from one city to another, the Army ignored several realities of Australia in 2023. It ignored the fact that a majority of the regiment’s members are not Christian. It ignored the fact that there are likely non-Christians currently serving in the regiment. And it ignored the fact that the regiment will be less Christian next year and in the years that follow." (2 Aug 2023)
Read more at Rationale Magazine
Events and Campaigns
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.
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.