Weekend Wrap for 9 July 2023

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 9 July 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

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At the National Level

An Anglican priest and senior member of the Australian Army’s chaplaincy branch has critiqued the institution’s defensive response to public calls for the introduction of non-religious pastoral support. In an article in the 2022 edition of the Australian Army Chaplaincy Journal – published online last month – Chaplain Sarah Gibson, the Army’s Director of Chaplaincy Capability, argued that “running to defend” religious-based chaplaincy “may not be the best option”. (5 Jul 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Christian groups are ­calling on Labor MPs to back more protections for religious organisations in the party’s policy ­platform at next month’s ALP ­national conference, warning that the ACT government’s takeover of Calvary Hospital could set a dangerous precedent. Michael Stead, Anglican Bishop of South Sydney and Freedom for Faith chairman, said the need for clarity over protections for religious hospitals was now “on the radar” for the faith community. He was concerned that the draft of Labor’s policy platform “does not specifically mention the faith-based sector in our healthcare ­system”. (5 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Australian

The federal government won’t force state hospitals to perform surgical abortions, formally ruling out a policy it took to the 2019 election, but is facing a fresh push from health groups and left-leaning Labor women to make terminations more accessible. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners is ramping up its calls for universal access to abortions in both public hospitals and through doctors, who they say should be able to supply the medical abortion pill to women following a fully funded consultation. (6 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Age

Around the Country

NSW: St Paul’s Anglican Church in Bankstown is at loggerheads with parishioners over proposed heritage protections that would prevent a Sydney church from being redeveloped, potentially as housing or commercial premises. The stoush over the Bankstown church also comes as churches undertake large-scale residential and office developments across Sydney worth hundreds of millions of dollars – amid concerns about whether religious organisations are paying their fair share of taxes and other property levies. (2 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Age

VIC: An alliance of 45 Victorian LGBTIQ+ community organisations have united to demand action and voice their deep concerns over the escalating threat posed to the rights of LGBTIQ+ individuals by far-right activism. At least 10 community events in Victoria have been cancelled in recent months due to threats to safety. Victorian councils recently met to discuss way to ensure that LGBTIQA+ focused events could be held without threats to people’s safety. Josh Burns, Federal MP for Macnamara (and home electorate for the Victorian Pride Centre), spoke in Parliament on this crisis and expressed his support for community activism against the far-right and said he “stands in solidarity” with the [new alliance] Rainbow Community Angels. (2 Jul 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth

NSW: Faith leaders have welcomed proposed changes to New South Wales’ anti-discrimination laws to outlaw vilification on religious grounds, as part of the work to be done to address religious freedom in the state. The state government will introduce new legislation to parliament that prohibits vilification on the grounds of religious belief, affiliation or activity. Making the announcement on 28 June, NSW Attorney-General Michael Daley said that no one should have to encounter public hate due to their religious beliefs. (6 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Catholic Weekly

Commentary and Analysis

Shaun Wilson, Kate Gleeson, Luke Ashton, Robert Ross: Religion in Australian politics and society: report on the religion module for the Australian Cooperative Election Survey 2022.
The Religion in Australian politics and society report, published this month by a team of researchers at Macquarie University contains a number of interesting statistics from a survey conducted during the federal election period in May last year:
- 82% of people agreed that agreed that "in Australia, religion should be separate from politics".
- 77% supported the statement that “religious leaders should not try to influence how people vote in elections”.
- Only 25% of respondents agreed that the government should "promote Christian values".
- Only 27% agreed with the statement that "Australians who hold religious beliefs face a lot of discrimination". (1 Jul 2023)
Read the full report at the Analysis & Policy Observatory

David Hastie: Fifty years of the Australian Christian schooling movement: A brief history of a radical educational experiment.
"A profound and politically significant 50-year anniversary is approaching in Australian education. An unexpected schooling movement started almost completely unseen but with furious local energy in 1978–82. It began in tiny and obscure ways: a group of parents in a loungeroom here; a cluster of congregants in a dusty Baptist church hall there. It happened with astonishing speed and multiple emergences across the country during a four-year window — occasionally organised across a region, but most often springing from whispers across networks and state lines." (3 Jul 2023)
Read more at ABC Religion & Ethics

Neil Foster: Christian graphic designer not required to produce websites for same sex weddings.
"In a much anticipated decision, the US Supreme Court (by 6-3) in 303 CREATIVE LLC v. ELENIS 600 U. S. (2023) has ruled that a Christian graphic designer cannot be required by Colorado law to produce websites supporting and celebrating same-sex weddings, contrary to her religious beliefs. The ruling was based on the US First Amendment protection of free speech, and sets out a principle that the government cannot compel citizens to say what they object to saying, in an “expressive” business like web design, even if that business provides services to the public. It seems clearly correct, and will be helpful in protecting free speech on a range of issues, but in particular will support religious freedom. ... So far this issue has not directly arisen in Australia, and the outcome would be less clear in a country like ours with limited over-riding protection for free speech. But the distinction between providing general services, and being required to support a message one objects to, is an important one which has now been recognised at the highest level in the USA and the UK. Hopefully such a distinction will also be recognised in any future litigation of this sort in Australia." (3 Jul 2023)
Read more at Law and Religion Australia

Four Corners: Blocked: ABC’s Four Corners dives into the gender wars.
Monday night’s episode of the ABC’s award-winning current affairs show Four Corners is diving into the debate over the treatment of transgender youth. Titled Blocked, the upcoming episode sees Radio National Breakfast presenter Patricia Karvelas explore the different viewpoints on the treatment of transgender youth. The episode is described as featuring clinicians with differing viewpoints, as well as interviews with people who are transgender and their families. (6 Jul 2023)
View trailer at Out in Perth

Paul Gregoire: Proposed Amendments to NSW Anti-Discrimination Act Will Fuel Transphobic Hate.
"Over the Morrison-era, there were attempts federally and in this state to pass laws to provide religious people with antidiscrimination protections, yet these bills also contained measures that tended toward rights law to the point that those of faith would be empowered to discriminate. ... But the Minns government’s religious vilification bill isn’t the solution. Rather it’s a band-aid law to appease its waning religious vote, that, in the current political climate, will further send a destructive message to trans communities, while Labor is aware that the right approach is a new Act." (6 Jul 2023)
Read more at Sydney Criminal Lawyers

Neil Foster: Is taking over Calvary Hospital a religious freedom breach?
"There has been a lot of controversy around the recent decision of the ACT government to compulsorily acquire Canberra’s Calvary Hospital. One question that is worth asking is this: could this move be an unlawful breach of religious freedom rights? In this post I want to consider the possibilities." (4 Jul 2023)
Read more at Law and Religion Australia

Events and Campaigns

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.

That's it for another week!

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