Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 9 April 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.
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 email@example.com.
At the National Level
Gravely ill people seeking to take their own lives under Victoria’s assisted dying laws are being blocked by both religious and non-religious nursing homes, hospices and hospitals because of moral objections to them doing so on their premises. An Australian study, which for the first time examined the implications of hospitals, palliative care units, health facilities and aged care homes conscientiously objecting to Victoria's euthanasia laws, found patients were frequently reporting such refusals. (2 Apr 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald
Victoria’s highest court has ruled that the Catholic church is vicariously liable for sexual abuse by a paedophile priest because he was a “servant of the diocese” whose role gave him the “power and intimacy” to access and abuse children. The decision by the Victorian court of appeal on Monday upholds the original landmark ruling, which, for the first time in Australia, found the church is vicariously liable for the abuse of its priests. The decision is expected to help countless other survivors achieve more significant compensation for the abuse they suffered at the hands of paedophile clergy. (3 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
Trans activist and actor Georgie Stone has called on governments around the nation to do more to protect transgender Australians. Stone said a recent uptick in hate speech against the trans community has made her genuinely fearful for her safety. Speaking at the National Press Club, she said governments needed to act now to ensure there were protections for the transgender community and ensure easier access to gender-affirming healthcare. (4 Apr 2023)
Read more at ABC News
The Australian Christian Lobby has announced Michelle Pearse will take up the role of CEO following the departure of Martyn Iles. Pearse was previously the Western Australian State Director of the ACL more than a decade ago, and then served as their national spokesperson for women’s issues. (4 Apr 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth
Early this month, the Defence Force released the first edition of its Defence-wide Character in the Profession of Arms -- describing it as the 'principal text on character and character development in the ADF' -- devoid of express references to Christianity. The new doctrine on character replaces previous doctrine within the separate services that included frequent references to 'God', 'Christianity', 'religion' and 'faith'. (8 Mar 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia
Around the Country
TAS: The state Attorney-General recently tabled legislation that would ban all use of Nazi symbols, though the Bill acknowledges the continued importance of the swastika to the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain communities, and clearly states that the display of a swastika in this context is not an offence. (29 Mar 2023)
Read more at the Premier of Tasmania's website
NSW: While it’s clear that Chris Minns will only be able to form a minority government in NSW, the Labor Premier has categorically ruled out working with One Nation’s NSW leader Mark Latham on any level. The Premier said Latham was trying to import "Trump-style politics" into NSW, and also highlighted Latham's recent homophobic comments directed at independent MP Alex Greenwich as "vile and obviously hugely disrespectful", saying "I think his comments in relation to Alex Greenwich make [working with Mr Latham] impossible." (2 Apr 2023)
Read more at ABC News
QLD: The Queensland government will move to scrap a controversial clause that religious bodies have used to justify discrimination against transgender, gay and unmarried people, as part of a large-scale overhaul of the state’s anti-discrimination laws. On Monday, the state committed to repealing and replacing the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act – legislated by the Goss government in 1991 – before the next election. It accepted 'in principle' 122 recommendations that emerged from a 14-month review of the act by the Queensland Human Rights Commission. (3 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
SA: The South Australian government is considering amendments to the state’s Equal Opportunity Act 1984 to remove religious exemptions for religious bodies, the Attorney-General has confirmed. In response to questions in the state’s upper house, Attorney-General Kyam Maher confirmed that the Malinauskas government would consider amendments to the Act and examine similar changes made in other states. (4 Apr 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia
SA: The NSL has questioned the premier's politicisation of Easter and the use of taxpayer money to send out over 40,000 Easter cards to his electorate of Croydon, which at the last census recorded a Christianity level of only 36%. (6 Apr 2023)
Read more at the NSL
SA: The Adelaide City Council has moved to scrap a traditional Christian prayer at the start of its meetings. The Council will retain the Acknowledgement of Country and Welcome to Meeting. The proposed changes include an option for prayer to be included at some meetings. (6 Apr 2023)
Read more at Vision Christian Media
NSW: Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich has rebuked the NSW Liberal-National Coalition for its silence after its MPs failed to condemn a highly offensive homophobic slur more than a week after it was made by One Nation leader Mark Latham. Greenwich said he was shocked that neither the Liberals nor the Nationals had publicly denounced Latham’s language. “Out of respect for me and the LGBTQI community, I would have thought the Coalition would formally condemn his comments,” he said. (7 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Age
Commentary and Analysis
Belinda Jones: Liberal Party little more than a factional fight club.
"What is really going on with the Liberal Party? Some reports say it’s factional infighting that is bringing them undone; other reports claim it's infiltration of the party by religious groups via branch stacking. It seems to be an insidious problem affecting Liberals nationwide based on recent election failures. The Libs are at war with themselves — moderates versus the far-Right. The Federal Opposition isn’t doing its state counterparts any favours either. Federal Liberal Leader Peter Dutton has not been the epitome of inspiring leadership. He takes his role as Opposition Leader literally and arguably opposes everything." (1 Apr 2023)
Read more at Independent Australia
Felix McIntyre: Gender-affirming surgery should be covered by Medicare.
"It’s difficult for studies alone to capture the full extent of what these surgeries can mean for people. I don’t believe trans people should be defined by gender dysphoria, but for some, dysphoria is unbearable. It can destroy the joys of getting dressed, eating, having sex, going to the pool, even just being in public. It can make people want to die. The fact that gender reassignment surgeries are so effective at reducing this psychological distress could make them among the most effective mental health interventions in existence." (3 Apr 2023)
Read more at Overland
Simon Benson: ‘We’re falling behind on religious freedom’.
"Australia is trailing behind much of the world in protecting religious freedoms, with current provisions open to contest because they haven’t been enshrined in law, according to an independent study. The study, commissioned by the Centre for Independent Studies, comes as the government awaits a final review report from the Australian Law Reform Commission this month into proposed religious discrimination laws. The ALRC earlier this year sparked a backlash from Catholic schools when it released a discussion paper that proposed removing exemptions from anti-discrimination laws that would undermine schools’ ability to hire staff based on their faith." (4 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Australian
Ali Kazak: Exposing Israel’s violations upset the Israeli lobby.
"'By far the best resourced of Australian Jewish lobby groups, AIJAC is an independent body with no official status within the Australian Jewish community.' ... AIJAC’s activity is spread over several fields, in addition to disseminating propaganda, lobbying, public relations and acting as a pressure group for Israel. It monitors the government, political parties, Members of Parliament, churches, academics, media, unions, ethnic communities (especially Arab and Islamic communities) and civil society institutions regarding the policy and position they take on Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East." (5 Apr 2023)
Read more at Pearls and Irritations
Robyn Whitaker: Victim or victor? How the Easter story still resonates today.
"Numerous Christians on the conservative side of politics claim the world is now anti-Christian, or that their freedoms are being curtailed. That is, they present themselves as a persecuted minority fighting for the right to sing Christmas carols in schools, prayer in government bodies, crucifixes in hospitals, or the ability to discriminate on matters of sexuality or gender. The rhetoric that positions those on the religious right as victims is fairly new. According to a 2023 academic analysis of public discourse, as other marginal groups in Australia began to achieve equity, the Christian right shifted its rhetoric away from an appeal as the moral majority and towards claiming victim status. They describe themselves in ways that reveal an identity as a threatened group, apparent victims of a secularism intent on silencing or destroying them." (6 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Conversation
Luke Beck: Many local councils still officially pray to God. Here’s why this may be unlawful and should be abandoned.
"There’s a good chance your local council starts each official council meeting with a religious prayer – and it’s almost always a Christian prayer. Around one-third of Australian local governments have a prayer, with the figure rising to more than half of councils in New South Wales and Victoria. These are just some of the findings reported in my recent article in the Journal for the Academic Study of Religion. The issue of council prayers is highly contentious. Here’s why it is probably unlawful, and why I think councils should stop." (6 Apr 2023)
Read more at The Conversation
Rodney Croome: Protest and Persuasion.
"I’ve heard it said many gay men and lesbians don’t care about reforms to come because they don’t affect us. That’s not true. Many of us still struggle against discrimination and stand with other LGBTIQA+ people who struggle with it even more. We can see the similarities between the struggles of today and of the past. We can see our traditional opponents, especially in the United States and UK, use attacks on trans people to circle back to old battles we thought we’d won like school inclusion and marriage equality. I’ve also heard it said the LGBTIQA+ community is beyond protest because well-placed politicians and funded LGBTIQA+ organisations are doing the job for us. That’s also not true." (7 Apr 2023)
Read more at Tasmanian Times
Brian Morris: Timely reminder – Religion and Politics don’t mix.
"Today, the basis of our democracy must remain the separation of Church and State. People have freedom to practise any faith they choose. There is an expectation that those in public office, funded by taxpayers, respect all belief positions and do not proselytise for their particular brand of religion. So it is concerning that Peter Malinauskas – a state premier – deems it part of his job to send every voter in his electorate a Christian Easter Card depicting a very white Anglo Saxon Jesus, and eulogising his personal belief that 'Christ has Risen'. This, when just 36.1 percent of his electorate is Christian." (8 Apr 2023)
Read more at the AIMN
Events and Campaigns
Adelaide residents can email the city council expressing their support for the proposed removal of prayers from council meetings. Get contact details from our new page on current opportunities for action.
Catch up on the RSA's latest webinar, featuring Dr Jennifer Bleazby speaking about the teaching of creationism being commonplace within religious instruction programs in Australian public schools.
Watch the webinar at the RSA's website
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.