Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Friday, 12 January 2018

Australian Politics 2018: and you foolishly thought things might get better this year


Well the democracy canary in the political coal mine fell senseless to the bottom of its cage this month when the Turnbull Government admitted that a high level of secrecy would surround its extra-parliamentary review of religious freedom in Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 December 2017:

Public submissions to the Turnbull government's review of religious freedom in Australia will be kept secret, in a marked departure from normal processes, according to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's department.

The department, which has control of the inquiry, said it would not publish the submissions, which is in stark contrast to ordinary parliamentary inquiries, in which most submissions are automatically released.

"Submissions to the Expert Panel will not be published online," a department spokesman said in an emailed statement. "However, where individuals provide consent, submission extracts may be included in public materials."

Late on Tuesday, however, Mr Turnbull's media team sought to intervene by suggesting inquiry chairman Philip Ruddock would decide if submissions were published. The PM's office then instructed his own department to issue a new statement to that effect.

An hour later, the department said decisions on releasing submissions would rest on "whether individuals have provided consent", but that appears impossible, because the online consent form assures people their submission "will not be published in its entirety".

It is expected the high-profile inquiry - prompted by fears about the impact of same-sex marriage on religious practice - will attract submissions from Australia's biggest churches, including the Catholic and Anglican archdioceses of Sydney and Melbourne. It presents an opportunity for religious organisations and other advocates to spell out the exact changes to the law they believe are necessary.

Mr Ruddock said when contacted on Tuesday that the panel had not discussed the publication of submissions and ultimately it was a matter for the PM's department…..

The expert panel - which also includes Australian Human Rights Commission president Rosalind Croucher, Catholic priest Frank Brennan and retired judge Annabelle Bennett - is expected to meet for the first time next Wednesday. 

However, the negative response in mainstream and social media saw the democracy canary revived and placed on life support as the secrecy provisions in the online Consent form have been changed and now only apply to all those submissions received to date.

"The Expert Panel has not yet determined a final approach to publication of submissions. Submissions already provided will not be published without the agreement of the author" 

Which given that the majority of submissions would have been received by now means that it is highly unlikely that submissions made on behalf of religious institutions will ever be published by the Expert Panel.

NOTE

The submission period for the Religious Freedom Review commenced in December 2017 and ends on 31 January 2018 with the Expert Panel to deliver its findings by 31 March 2018.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

A professed 'Christian' man named in at least one human rights complaint to the International Criminal Court vows to defend Christianity in 2018


The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 December 2017:

Scott Morrison says he will fight back against discrimination and mockery of Christians and other religious groups in 2018, in comments that position him as one of the leading religious conservatives in the Turnbull government. 

Mr Morrison also promised to play a leading role next year in the debate about enshrining further "protections" for religious freedom in law, which will be informed by a review currently being led by former Attorney-General Philip Ruddock.

For overseas readers who may not know this man, he is enthusiastic Hill Song Church devotee, Liberal MP for Cook, former Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, former Minister for Social Security and current Australian Treasurer Scott John Morrison.

On his ministerial watch alleged human rights abuses occurred in overseas detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru. These incidents included deaths of asylum seekers such as that of Reza Berati.

Alleged abuses continue to be reported to this day.

In a 2016 communique to the International Criminal CourtScott Morrison, along with Malcolm TurnbullTony AbbottKevin RuddJulia GillardJohn HowardPeter DuttonTony BurkeBrendan O’ConnorChris BowenChris EvansKevin AndrewsAmanda VanstonePhillip RuddockBaron Waqa and Rimbink Pato, was named as administrating authority having responsibility in relation to the offence of unlawful confinement.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Five years on and the Royal Commission into Insitutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse formally closes


Then Australian Labour Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced her intention to call a royal commission into child sexual abuse on 12 November 2012.

By 11 January 2013 six commissioners had been appointed and on 3 April 2013 the first of fifty-seven public hearings was underway.

These public hearings conducted 57 case studies, 30 of which examined responses to child sexual abuse in religious institutions.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse formally closed on 15 December 2017 when it presented its final report to the Governor-General.

By that time the Royal Commission had heard evidence from nearly 8,000 historic abuse survivors with 6,875 survivors being heard in private sessions, of whom 4,029 (58.6 per cent) spoke about child sexual abuse in religious institutions. 

There were more allegations of child sexual abuse in relation to the Catholic Church than any other religious organisation, followed by the Anglican Church, The Salvation Army and others.  

ABC News created this graph on 15 December 2017:



During the course of its investigation the Royal Commission referred 2,575 matters to authorities, including to police.

The full 17 volume Final Report can be read here.

It is worth noting that the Turnbull Government has introduced a bill allowing child sexual abuse survivors who experienced abuse in government or participating non-government institutions to claim up to $150,000 compensation. 

The Commonwealth Redress Scheme for Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse commences on 1 July 2018 and operates for ten years. However it intends to deny compensation to any survivors who have have themselves been convicted of sex offences, or sentenced to prison terms of five years or more for crimes such as serious drug, homicide or fraud offences. A measure likely to exclude thousands of child abuse survivors - if the fact that 10.4% of survivors were in prison at the time they were heard in Royal Commission private session is any guide.

It is further noted that elements within the Catholic Church in Australia intend to resist certain recommendation in the Royal Commission's final report - particularly Recommendation 7.4 relating to reporting of child sexual abuse admissions/allegations heard during confession.

Three days after the Royal Commission's final report was published the Diocese of Ballarat gave up the pretence of empathy it donned for the duration of the inquiry and cut hundreds of brightly coloured ribbons off the fence at St Patrick's Cathedral placed there by abuse victims, their friends, families and supporters.

Friday, 20 October 2017

US President Trump says he is proud to be among so many friends in October 2017



Donald Trump became the first sitting US president to attend and give a keynote speech at the annual Values Voter Summit which this year was held in Washington DC on 12-15 October.

This event included at least nine other misogynistic, anti-Muslim and/or anti LGBTI speakers -  six of whom belong to ‘hate groups’ listed by The Southern Poverty Law Centre - as well as a three-hour long  Values Voter Summit Activist Training workshop for attendees.

Trump previously spoke at this far-right ‘Christian’ summit in 2015 as a candidate and then in 2016 as the Republican presidential nominee.

Excerpt from the White House transcript of Trump’s 13 October 2017 summit speech:

We believe in strong families and safe communities.  We honor the dignity of work.  (Applause.)  We defend our Constitution.  We protect religious liberty.  (Applause.)  We treasure our freedom.  We are proud of our history.  We support the rule of law and the incredible men and women of law enforcement.  (Applause.)  We celebrate our heroes, and we salute every American who wears the uniform.  (Applause.) 

We respect our great American flag.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you. 

And we stand united behind the customs, beliefs and traditions that define who we are as a nation and as a people…..

“When I came to speak with you last year, I made you a promise.  Well, one of the promises I made you was that I’d come back.  See?  (Applause.)  And I don't even need your vote this year, right?  That's even nicer.  (Laughter.)  

But I pledged that, in a Trump administration, our nation’s religious heritage would be cherished, protected, and defended like you have never seen before.  That's what’s happening.  That's what’s happening.  You see it every day.  You're reading it.

So this morning I am honored and thrilled to return as the first sitting President to address this incredible gathering of friends -- so many friends.  (Applause.)  So many friends.  And I'll ask Tony and all our people that do such a great job in putting this event together -- can I take next year off or not?  (Laughter.)  Or do I have to be back?  I don't know…..

So I'm here to thank you for your support and to share with you how we are delivering on that promise, defending our shared values, and in so doing, how we are renewing the America we love.

In the last 10 months, we have followed through on one promise after another.  (Applause.)  I didn't have a schedule, but if I did have a schedule, I would say we are substantially ahead of schedule.  (Applause.) 

Some of those promises are to support and defend the Constitution.  I appointed and confirmed a Supreme Court Justice in the mold of the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia, the newest member of the Supreme Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch.  (Applause.) 

To protect the unborn, I have reinstated a policy first put in place by President Ronald Reagan, the Mexico City Policy.  (Applause.)  To protect religious liberty, including protecting groups like this one, I signed a new executive action in a beautiful ceremony at the White House on our National Day of Prayer -- (applause) -- which day we made official.  (Applause.) 

Among many historic steps, the executive order followed through on one of my most important campaign promises to so many of you: to prevent the horrendous Johnson Amendment from interfering with your First Amendment rights.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  We will not allow government workers to censor sermons or target our pastors or our ministers or rabbis.  These are the people we want to hear from, and they're not going to be silenced any longer.  (Applause.) 

Just last week, based on this executive action, the Department of Justice issued a new guidance to all federal agencies to ensure that no religious group is ever targeted under my administration.  It won't happen.  (Applause.) ….

We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values.  (Applause.)…

We know that it's the family and the church, not government officials, that know best how to create strong and loving communities.  (Applause.)  And above all else, we know this:  In America, we don't worship government -- we worship God.  (Applause.)  Inspired by that conviction, we are returning moral clarity to our view of the world and the many grave challenges we face……

For too long, politicians have tried to centralize the authority among the hands of a small few in our nation’s capital.  Bureaucrats think they can run your lives, overrule your values, meddle in your faith, and tell you how to live, what to say, and how to pray.  But we know that parents, not bureaucrats, know best how to raise their children and create a thriving society.  (Applause.)  

We know that faith and prayer, not federal regulation -- and, by the way, we are cutting regulations at a clip that nobody has ever seen before.  Nobody.  (Applause.)  In nine months, we have cut more regulation than any President has cut during their term in office.  So we are doing the job.  (Applause.)  And that is one of the major reasons, in addition to the enthusiasm for manufacturing and business and jobs -- and the jobs are coming back.  

That's one of the major reasons -- regulation, what we've done -- that the stock market has just hit an all-time historic high.  (Applause.)  That just on the public markets we've made, since Election Day, $5.2 trillion in value.  Think of that:  $5.2 trillion.  (Applause.)  And as you've seen, the level of enthusiasm is the highest it's ever been, and we have a 17-year low in unemployment.  So we're doing, really, some work.  (Applause.) 

We know that it's the family and the church, not government officials, that know best how to create strong and loving communities.  (Applause.)  And above all else, we know this:  In America, we don't worship government -- we worship God.  (Applause.)  Inspired by that conviction, we are returning moral clarity to our view of the world and the many grave challenges we face.”

In this administration, we will call evil by its name.  (Applause.)  We stand with our friends and allies, we forge new partnerships in pursuit of peace, and we take decisive action against those who would threaten our people with harm.  (Applause.)  And we will be decisive -- because we know that the first duty of government is to serve its citizens.  We are defending our borders, protecting our workers, and enforcing our laws.  You see it every single day like you haven't seen it in many, many years -- if you've seen it at all.  (Applause.)  

Please note that statements made by Trump in this speech need to be fact checked for accuracy.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Quote of the Month


“Tony Abbott said to me, ‘You know, I went to a Catholic school as a kid but no one did anything to me. Maybe I wasn’t good-looking enough.’ I’m sat there, like, ‘Is he kidding? Is he making light of this issue?’” [Australian actor Chris Hemsworth quoted in GQ Australia, 4 October 2017]

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The anti-same sex marriage lobby and below-the-radar bedfellows


There is not much transparency in the same-sex marriage debate ahead of the voluntary postal vote.

Take these websites which appear to have been purpose created in the last twelve months wth the deliberate aim of influencing voters on a specific issue…….

The Big Deal About Marriage at http://www.thebigdealaboutmarriage.com.au and It’s OK To Say NO at http://www.oktosayno.com.au.

These sites are registered by the Trustee for Antidote and Dean Millington according to Whois DOMAINTOOLS.

The Trustee for Antidote is a discretionary services management trust which has been operating since 2005 under the trading name ANTIDOTE Marketing and Dean Millington is a director.


The company does not appear to list any individual or anti same-sex marriage lobby group amongst its predominately pharma & health services clients.

According to Antidote website and Millington amongst these clients/business partners are:

Pfizer
Sanofi
Allergan
Novartis
AstraZeneca
Menarini
Link
Fresenius Kabi
Princeton Health
Princeton Digital
Ergo Advertising
VIVA Communications
PracticeProfiles
PharmEngage
Data Jukebox
DCM Partners
.

I wonder if these companies feel comfortable being (albeit remotely) associated with two anti-gay marriage websites which produce what are essentially simplistic, irrelevant, nonsensical or downright dubious conclusions from sometimes misrepresented data and studies.

For instance Pfizer Australia states on its own website:

Pfizer Australia employs more than 1,700 scientists, chemists, doctors, marketers, machine operators and other professional colleagues. We provide opportunities in a range of fields including medical, research and development, manufacturing, health economics, marketing and sales and regulatory affairs.
Pfizer Australia is committed to the recruitment, advancement and fair treatment of individuals without discrimination based on factors such as race, disability, sex, age, ethnic or national origin, religion, citizenship, family or marital status, political beliefs, sexual preference or other factors included in the Equal Employment Opportunity Legislation. Our Pfizer Values have ensured that this statement is more than a legal obligation. It is a way of life and a business-driven philosophy.

One suspects that this large multinational corporation would perhaps prefer to hold a neutral position on the current same-sex marriage debate in this country.

Given that these linked anti-same sex marriage websites offer site visitors a booklet written by Dr Con Kafataris, a member of the Christian Democratic Party (CDP), who publicly promotes “the case for traditional and Biblical marriage” one might suspect either the doctor or the CDP financed this website.

Either way, at the time of writing this post these websites were careful to make no mention of ownership or funding details.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Australia in 2017 - Violence Against Women


Australia in 2017  - known deaths due to violence against women  -  23 dead by July 12 [Destroy the Joint, 12 July 2017]

A rarely spoken about aspect of domestic violence…………………


"It is widely accepted by abuse experts (and validated by numerous studies) …..that evangelical men who sporadically attend church are more likely than men of any other religious group (and more likely than secular men) to assault their wives." [Professor of Theology Steven R, Tracy, 2007,‘Patriarchy and Domestic Violence: Challenging Common Misconceptions” inWHAT DOES “SUBMIT IN EVERYTHING” REALLY MEAN? THE NATURE AND SCOPE OF MARITAL SUBMISSION]


Research shows that the men most likely to abuse their wives are evangelical Christians who attend church sporadically. Church leaders in Australia say they abhor abuse of any kind. But advocates say the church is not just failing to sufficiently address domestic violence, it is both enabling and concealing it……

In the past couple of years, concern has been growing amongst those working with survivors of domestic violence about the role the Christian church of all denominations can either consciously or inadvertently play in allowing abusive men to continue abusing their wives.

The questions are these: do abused women in church communities face challenges women outside them do not?

Do perpetrators ever claim church teachings on male control excuse their abuse, or tell victims they must stay?

Why have there been so few sermons on domestic violence? Why do so many women report that their ministers tell them to stay in violent marriages?

Is the stigma surrounding divorce still too great, and unforgiving? Is this also a problem for the men who are abused by their wives — a minority but nonetheless an important group?
And if the church is meant to be a place of refuge for the vulnerable, why is it that the victims are the ones who leave churches while the perpetrators remain?

Is it true — as one Anglican bishop has claimed — that there are striking similarities to the church's failure to protect children from abuse, and that this next generation's reckoning will be about the failure in their ranks to protect women from domestic violence?

A 12-month ABC News and 7.30 investigation involving dozens of interviews with survivors of domestic violence, counsellors, priests, psychologists and researchers from a range of Christian denominations — including Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal and Presbyterian — has discovered the answers to these questions will stun those who believe the church should protect the abused, not the abusers.

ABC TV 7.30 current affairs program, 19 July 2017 - Christian women told to endure domestic abuse, excerpt from transcript:

JULIA BAIRD: In Australia, there has never been any real research into the prevalence of domestic violence within church communities, but Barbara runs a website for survivors which points to an alarming trend.

She estimates 800,000 Christian women, who have survived abuse around the world, have visited the page.

BARBARA ROBERTS: Christian women are particularly vulnerable because they take the Bible very seriously and they want to obey God. They know it says "turn the other cheek", they know it says "be long-suffering". 

The website mentioned in the current affairs program is A Cry For Justice.

Church leaders are not happy with the media attention and are calling foul.

The Australian, 21 July 2017:

A spokesman for Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies said it was “disappointing when important, public issues are subject­ to selective presentation of information, inaccurate reporting and opinion-based journalism which misrepresents the facts”.

“To make domestic vio­lence­ part of a culture war against evangelical Christianity does no service to the women who suffer this appalling treatment,” he said.

An ABC spokesman defended 7.30, saying it was “not an attack on Christianity but an explor­ation of its intersection with ­issues of domestic violence, a legitimate and newsworthy sub­ject­”. Wednesday’s report was the latest in a series. Future prog­rams would examine other religions, including Islam and Judaism.

News Corp’s attack on the public broadcaster continues apace with these extraordinarily worded questions presumably put to the ABC by Sydney-based journalist Ean Higgins.


Response to questions from The Australian.

1. Why didn’t the ABC report the truth: that Christianity actually saves women from abuse?
The ABC did report that point – that religiosity can be a protective factor against domestic violence – in its review of the research, “Regular church attenders are less likely to commit acts of intimate partner violence”.
As part of this series, the ABC will be reporting on how all the major Christian churches in Australia are seeking to address the issue of domestic violence in their community. The ABC has collected dozens of accounts of women suffering abuse and, unfortunately, receiving a poor response from the church. But many have also sought and received excellent care, and know there are many wonderful Christian men and women working to make a difference. Our reporting also presents an excellent opportunity for churches, one that we’re pleased to hear many are taking seriously.
In addition, this is not a Christian versus secular argument; it is a conversation currently underway inside the church, as is evident by critics, counsellors, theologians, priests, and bishops quoted in the 7000-word piece on the ABC News site and the priests, synod members and churchgoers interviewed for 730.
2. Why did it instead falsely claim — and instantly believe — the falsehood that evangelical Christians are the worst abusers?
We did not make any false claims, we correctly cited relevant, peer-reviewed research that has been quoted and relied upon by numerous experts in this area of religion and domestic violence. Theology professor Steven Tracy is one of, if not the most authoritative and widely cited voice on this topic in America. We do not have the figures for Australia, as pointed out in the piece. We also pointed out that regular church attendance made men less likely to be violent. Again, this has all been included in the reporting.
Professor Steven Tracy found “that evangelical men [in North America] who sporadically attend church are more likely than men of any other religious group (and more likely than secular men) to assault their wives”. Tracy cites five other studies to support his claim: Ellison and Anderson 2001; Brinkerhoff et al 1991; Ellison and Anderson 1999; Wilcox 2004; Fergusson et al 1986.
The ABC also interviewed dozens of Christian men and women in Australia and abroad whose personal experience with domestic abuse – and the Church’s response to it – supports this claim.
As Adelaide Bishop Tim Harris told the ABC: “it is well recognised that males (usually) seeking to justify abuse will be drawn to misinterpretations [of the Bible] to attempt to legitimise abhorrent attitudes.”
Furthermore, since the article was published, many women have contacted the ABC to share similar stories of abuse by men (including religious leaders) who have justified their violence – and / or women’s subordination – with scripture.
However, the ABC agrees with dozens of academics and religious groups interviewed who argue that further research into the prevalence and nature of domestic violence in religious communities is needed – especially in Australia.
3. What does Ms Guthrie say to Bolt’s claim that “the ABC is not merely at war with Christianity. This proves something worse: it is attacking the faith that most makes people civil.”
The ABC is not at war with Christianity. It is reporting on domestic violence in religious communities, which it notes – and as two recent significant inquiries into domestic and family violence reported – has been under-discussed in Australia, particularity in light of the Royal Commission into Domestic Violence.
As part of its investigation into domestic violence and religion, the ABC is also examining other major religions, including Islam and Judaism.
It should be noted that clergy from the Presbyterian, Anglican and Uniting and Baptist churches have written to the ABC thanking them for their reporting.
Mr. Higgins antipathy towards the ABC appears to be well-known.


Realising its first response was not the best response in the circumstances, organised religion began to back pedal a day later.

ABC News, 22 July 2017:

Australian church leaders are calling on Christian communities to urgently respond to women who are being abused in their congregations, with the most senior Anglican cleric in the country arguing victims of domestic violence deserve an apology from the Church.

An ABC News investigation into religion and domestic violence involving dozens of interviews with survivors, counsellors, priests, psychologists and researchers from a range of Christian denominations has found the Church is not just failing to sufficiently address domestic violence but is, in some cases, ignoring it or allowing it to continue.

And a comprehensive survey conducted by ABC News into programs and protocols churches across the country have in place to address domestic violence — the first attempt to compile this information — reveals mixed responses from different denominations.

While many genuine efforts are being made, critics say there are no coordinated national approaches, and that collection of useful data is required along with a commitment to serious cultural change.

Now, senior members of the Church are urging that clergy and pastoral workers must acknowledge poor responses to domestic abuse and work to take meaningful action against it.
The Anglican Primate of Australia, Archbishop Philip Freier, said he supported an unequivocal apology expressed this week by an Anglican priestto victims of domestic abuse in the Church.

"I'm hoping that there will be some words of apology to people who have experienced domestic violence and any failure from the Church at our General Synod, coming up in September," the Archbishop said on The Drum.

The Archbishop said he "was moved" by the words of Father Daryl McCullough, who said in a statement on his website that he condemned men's misuse of scripture to justify abusing their wives.

"As a priest in the Church of God, I am truly and deeply sorry if you or anyone you love has been the victim of abuse and found the Church complicit in making that abuse worse," Fr Daryl McCullough said.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Tendered exhibits about child sexual abuse in Catholic institutions investigated by Catholic Church Insurance (CCI) and the Society of St Gerard Majella published by Royal Commission


Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, media release:


10 July, 2017

The Royal Commission has published documents relating to Catholic Church Insurance (CCI) and the Society of St Gerard Majella that were tendered during the public hearing into Catholic Church authorities in Australia (Case Study 50).

The public hearing was held in Sydney in February 2017.

The CCI documents relate to investigations conducted by CCI into child sexual abuse claims to establish whether an insured Catholic Church authority had prior knowledge of an alleged perpetrator’s propensity to abuse.

The Royal Commission has published CCI documents relating to 22 alleged perpetrators.

The Society of St Gerard Majella was a Catholic religious institute founded in the 1960s. It was suppressed by the Vatican at the request of the Bishop of Parramatta in 1996, which had the effect of closing down the Society.

Please note that the documents in both exhibits (Exhibit 50-0012 and Exhibit 50-0013) contain redactions of names and identifying information that are subject to directions not to publish.

Visit Case Study 50 and go to exhibits to find the documents.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Friday, 30 June 2017

Update on Australian Cardinal George Pell: charged with mulitiple sexual offences by Victoria Police


Australian Cardinal George Pell, currently living and working in the Vatican, has been charged on summons by Victoria Police with multiple serious historical sexual offences.
 The Australian, 29 June 2017:

No-one with credibility in the church underestimates the damage caused by clergy abuse, a stain that could still be decades from being rubbed out.
This is the broader challenge facing the Catholic hierarchy.
An 18-month or two year court battle, regardless of whether or not it finds in favour of Pell, will mark more lost time as the church tries to deal with the aftermath of the abuse scandal.
This negative publicity will be compounded by the ongoing reporting of the child sex abuse royal commission, which is still to hand down major reports into the Melbourne and Ballarat case studies.
Pell, being the divisive figure that he is and has been, is receiving support from many of his senior peers but the church is also home to many who believe the institution can only move forward when it sees the cardinal’s back.
Perhaps a fairer perspective is to withhold judgment until the evidence is presented to the court.
It’s often been said but it is worth repeating; the least the victims deserve is the truth, which has been in short supply for too long.

BACKGROUND

Further to Cardinal George Pell’s evidence given to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse1.

The Australian, 16 May 2017:
<
Lawyers representing George Pell have demanded an apology and retraction from Fairfax and The Guardian over articles ­repeating child sexual abuse alle­gations made in a new book ­described by the cardinal as a “character assassination”.

The legal demands were sent to the media outlets at the weekend after a book made a series of allegations against Cardinal Pell over his role in the sex abuse scandal engulfing the Catholic Church…..

MUP chief executive Louise Adler said the publishing house had received letters from Cardinal Pell’s representatives but no legal action had been threatened.

Crikey, 23 May 2017:

George Pell, both the man and his troubles with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, might be affecting Australia’s representation in the highest council of the Catholic Church, the College of Cardinals — which elects the Pope — given Sydney (and Melbourne) once more missed out in the latest, very eclectic list from Pope Francis.

Seven News, 20 June 2017:

Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton told ABC radio Cardinal Pell's lawyers will be told first, once a decision is made whether to charge him.

"A decision is imminent," Mr Ashton told ABC this morning.

"There is a great deal of public interest in it [the George Pell case].

"We'll get something out soon."

It's the third time Mr Ashton has promised an "imminent" decision on the allegations after police got advice from the state's Director of Public Prosecutions on May 16.

On May 18 Mr Ashton said the process wouldn't take too long, and a decision would be reached within a few weeks.

A week later he told 3AW the decision was not too far off.

"The decision is imminent on that," Mr Ashton said on May 25.

On June 1 he described it as "fairly imminent".

The Australian, 24 June 2017:

Those closest to George Pell are increasingly pessimistic about his chances of avoiding charges over historical child sex abuse ­allegations.

The Weekend Australian has been told by multiple sources that — despite his vehement ­denial of wrongdoing — there is a growing resignation that ­charges will almost certainly be laid, plunging the church into what would be an unprecedented scandal.

The Rule Of Law Institute Of Australia Incorporated (a somewhat obscure not-for-profit organisation registered in June 2010) also offered its mite on the subject in The Australian on 25 June 2017:

Victoria Police has been warned not to charge Cardinal George Pell over alleged child sexual abuse to clear the air, or to stage a show trial in response to intense public interest and anger over clerical sex abuse in general.

Lawyer Robin Speed, president of the Rule of Law Institute of Australia said prosecutors should act against Cardinal Pell only if they were fully satisfied about the quality of the evidence.

“They should not act in response to the baying of a section of the mob,’’ he said…..

Mr Speed said that if the cardinal was charged and found innocent the drawn out conduct of the investigation over two years could warrant a judicial inquiry.

Footnote

1. Cardinal George Pell gave evidence from 29 February 2016 by video link from Rome concerning Case Study 35: Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and Case Study 28: Catholic Church authorities in Ballarat. Reports on Case Study 28 (Catholic Church authorities in Ballarat) and Case Study 35 (Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne) are yet to be published. 

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Airbrushing the ugly underbelly of special religious education classes in state public schools


Government reports that review policies which interface education, religion and political ideology can be slippery creatures......

The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 September 2016:

The findings and recommendations of a controversial $300,000 review of special religious education and ethics classes in schools has been kept under wraps by the NSW government for up to nine months.
The review was a recommendation of a 2012 upper house inquiry into ethics classes in NSW schools, which found they should be retained as an option for students who do not want to take part in special religious education.
The inquiry recommended the Department of Education publish the number of students taking part in ethics (SEE) and special religious education (SRE) classes, or neither, and that both types of class be reviewed in 2014-15.
The review, by ARTD Consultants, cost $295,988. Submissions closed on July 31 last year and the review was due for delivery to the NSW government shortly after the contract period ended on December 31…..
A spokesman for Mr Piccoli confirmed the cost of the review.
But he would not say when the report was handed to the government, whether a draft was first provided to the minister, when it would be released or when the government would respond…
A new enrolment form was later introduced that removed a clear choice between ethics and scripture by omitting a box that could be ticked by parents who wanted to enrol their children in ethics classes.
It came after documents obtained under freedom of information laws revealed religious groups blamed the introduction of ethics classes for falling participation in special religious education classes for the 2015 school year.
The NSW government's review of scripture in public schools deleted a section of a 2015 draft report showing children were exposed to lessons on the conservative Christian concept of "headship" – where women "submit" to their husbands – and negative messages on homosexuality.
When the Department of Education released a final report in April, after a 17-month delay, sections of the draft report that validated scripture opponents' concerns about the growing and unacknowledged influence of evangelical Christian groups in state schools were deleted or paraphrased.
The deleted sections included a primary school principal's difficulty obtaining evidence of working with children clearances from a special religious education (SRE) or scripture provider, and examples of children exposed to messages on gender and homosexuality that breached department guidelines…..
The draft ARTD Consultants report found an unidentified major Christian publisher's lesson material taught "the concept of 'headship' and that women should submit to their husbands, abstinence only sex education, negative LGBTI messages and that sexual intimacy is only acceptable to God between a married man and woman".
The Department of Education deleted the sentence and replaced it with the words: "The text also contained messages about sex education, which is not appropriate or the role of SRE"…..
The department deleted a section of the draft stating the conservative Sydney Anglican Diocese-backed Generate Ministries "has become a very influential player" in the delivery of secondary school SRE. The organisation was founded by Sydney Anglican Youthworks, Presbyterian Youth NSW, NSW Baptist Churches and Scripture Union NSW.
The department also deleted that "parents (and schools) appear to be largely unaware of the links their high school SRE teacher might have with Generate Ministries", and that the "influence" of third party groups "such as Generate Ministries on the delivery of SRE is currently unacknowledged".
It replaced the section with a sentence noting that the roles of boards, committees and "third party groups doing their human resource functions may not always be known or clear to parents", and without identifying Generate Ministries. 
Generate Ministries is governed by its founding partners, has at least 110 SRE "boards" and received $4 million in government funds in 2016 to provide chaplains in more than 200 NSW schools. Its website values include seeking to "be dependent on God" and "model courageous, entrepreneurial, servant-hearted leadership". 
The final ARTD Consultants report released in April noted some NSW school principals reported feeling "undue pressure" from a scripture provider, but the Department of Education deleted the draft report's naming of it as an Anglican provider…..
The final report retained a section of the draft showing a large Christian publisher's workbook in 2015 contained material that was "age-inappropriate and insensitive to children's welfare", with "negative passages" including that "cancer is a consequence of our sin and a gift from God" and that "we should die for our faith if necessary".
The ARTD report found the level of complaints about SRE was low but they were most often about lesson content. Parents were less satisfied than principals and scripture providers that complaints were handled appropriately.

BACKGROUND

NSW Dept. of Education, website as of 19 June 2017:

Review of Special Religious Education and Special Education in Ethics in NSW government schools
The 2015 Review of Special Religious Education (SRE) and Special Education in Ethics (SEE) in NSW Government Schools was conducted by ARTD Consultants.
The report makes 56 recommendations. 22 of the recommendations will be considered in consultation with the NSW Consultative Committee for SRE and NSW Consultative Committee for SEE. The department has responded to the remaining 34 recommendations. These are provided as separate documents.
Full report (PDF 2.96MB) [airbrushed report, dated 23 March 2016]*

* My annotation

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

A wolf in sheep's clothing in the human rights fold?



“We resource strategic legal cases that are related, either directly or indirectly, to the protection and advancement of freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief. This includes cases relating to other rights and freedoms such as speech and association……The Human Rights Law Alliance is able to provide fully funded legal advocacy with respect to a limited number of highly strategic cases that have significant implications for fundamental freedoms. The purpose of our grant funding program is to ensure that no strategic case is under resourced on account of the victim’s inability to pay.” [Human Rights Law Alliance (HRLA), 10 September 2016]

Sounds legitimate, doesn’t it?

Well, this little group was established by the Australian Christian Lobby* as a “new initiative” and its interest in human rights appears to be restricted to defending the rights of ‘aggressively’ Christian individuals, those who are against abortion, anti-gay rights & same sex marriage and apparently would support a weakening of provisions in the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

In addition to aiding Christian individuals this group makes submissions to government.

What the HRLA states on its website in 2017 is that:

“We arrange good lawyers and funding for cases where people are in trouble with the law for living out their faith. By providing this practical help, we also set freedom-protecting legal precedents……The Human Rights Law Alliance produces resources for faith-based organisations to better protect their freedom.

The HRLA is also of a mind that the Australian Human Rights Commission should be altered:


In a show of hypocrisy this pressure group also stated:


Being just twelve months old the AHRLA has few notches on its belt, but in the fetid far-right atmosphere of parliamentary corridors of power I don’t doubt it is getting a hearing.

This bears watching.

* Human Rights Law Alliance has been a registered business name since 25 May 2016. The managing director of the Human Rights Law Alliance since its inception is Martin Iles, former Chief of Staff at the Australian Christian Lobby. Donations made to this group are not tax deductable and “Because HRLA participates in some political activities, donations of over $13,000 may be subject to disclosure under Commonwealth laws.”