Monthly Archives: October 2012

Religion in schools – the effect on GLBTIQ students

Podcast: The Rainbow Report – Religion in Secular Schools

Last night, I joined the Rainbow Reporter, Doug Pollard (Joy 94.9 FM), education analyst, Adam Smith (The Project) and Ron Williams (High Court Challenge to National School Chaplaincy) to discuss the proceedings of the Humanist Society of Queensland’s recent Separation of Church and State Schools Conference.

My aim was to highlight the very real danger the infiltration (infestation?) of religion into our state schools represents for GLBTIQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer)  students (or those still struggling with their sexual identity).

It’s up now as a Podcast on the Joy 94.9 website – look for:  The Rainbow Report – Religion in Secular Schools under the heading “Item” and click ‘Listen’ or click the ‘Download’ link.

Thanks to Doug for giving this important issue such prominence.

Listen out for Ron hinting that another High Court Challenge is not very far off …. !

Podcast: The Rainbow Report – Religion in Secular Schools

Chrys Stevenson

I’d like to thank the Academy …

It happened, as these things often do, completely out of the blue!

There I was, at the hairdresser (where else do you expect a celebrity of my calibre to spend her Mondays?) when one of my best-friends-forever pinged me on Facebook.

“Have you heard? Have you heard? You’ve been nominated!”

Me? Little me? Nominated? Surely it was a joke!

But no, my BFF sent me a link and, there it was in black and white: my name listed among a veritable glitterati of co-nominees. It was all I could do not to pull out my iPad while I sat in the hairdresser’s chair so I could start drafting out my acceptance speech. (It was only after the excitement died down a little, I realised I don’t actually own an iPad!)

What would I wear, what would I wear???? I frantically planned a visit to the big girls’ section of Big W!

Would there be some kind of ceremony? I pictured myself looking humble but uber-gorgeous as I wafted up the stairs to collect my award. And then, while the hairdresser was snip snip snipping away, I snuck a look in the mirror and tried one of those supremely insincere, “Oh-I-lost-but-really-I-was-just-honoured-to-be-nominated” looks.

So, what a thrill!

Oh, you want to know what I was nominated for?

An Academy Award for looking uncannily like Magda Szubanski only taller?

The Nobel Prize for Prattling?

The Miles Franklin award for a book-not-yet-written?

A Logie for services to Q&A?

A Moe award for being even more annoying than Catherine Deveny?

None of the above! I was nominated by anti-vaccination, conspiracy theorist, Judy Wilyman as one of her top ten Big Pharma shills! Yes! Me! Little me! (Picture frantic girly hand-flapping in front of face, here.)

And what a star-studded line-up of nominees Ms Wilyman has assembled! Hang on to your seats, folks! (Insert Bugs Bunny theme music here!)

Big Pharma Shill of the Year Nominee No. 1: The Australian Skeptics

First there’s the Australian Skeptics – what a bunch of know-nothing thugs! Prominent patrons of this ‘so-called’ skeptical group are Australian broadcaster Phillip Adams AO and Living National Treasure and entrepreneur Dick Smith AO, former Australian of the Year, recipient of the US Lindbergh Award for his contribution towards balancing advances in technology and nature and a Consulting Professor in the Department of Biology, School of Humanities and Sciences of Stanford University.

And you thought Dick Smith earned his fortune by founding and selling Dick Smith Electronics? Clever Ms. Wilyman can see through it – that fortune has Big Pharma shill written all over it!

Big Pharma Shill of the Year Nominee No. 2 – Ken McLeod

Check out the deceptively cheap looking plastic earrings. Yep! Thank YOU Big Pharma!

The second nominee is Ken McLeod, a retired air-traffic controller and search and rescue coordinator.

Yes! I was shocked too! He looks so respectable!

McLeod is nominated for his role in defending the parents of a baby who died of whooping cough after they were harassed and maligned by Ms Wilyman’s little friend, Meryl Dorey of the Australian [Anti] Vaccination Network. The bastard!

I’ve met and cuddled Ken McLeod – he’s a pretty shifty character and a strong contender to take out the award as Big Pharma Shill of the Year.

Big Pharma Shill of the Year Nominee No. 3 – Dr Matthew Berryman

Next on the list of nominees is Matthew Berryman. Here’s some strong competition! Unlike Ms Wilyman (and me!), Dr Berryman actually managed to finish his PhD.

There is some concern about nepotism in Berryman’s nomination, given that both he and Ms Wilyman are at the University of Wollongong. But Dr Berryman actually works at the University as a Senior Research Fellow while Ms Wilyman is yet to actually produce anything of merit – so, bit of a difference there.

Dr Berryman is widely published. His 2007 PhD thesis completed through the University of Adelaide’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering was entitled: “A Complex Systems Approach to Important Biological Problems”. Another paper co-written by Berryman (and obviously the work of a two-bit no-talent academic hack) is “Mathematical principles underlying genetic structures”, From Stars to Brains: Pathways to consciousness in the natural world” published by the (very inconsequential) Australian Academy of Science, ANU, Canberra.

What more can I say? Berryman’s obviously a strong contender for Shill of the Year.

Big Pharma Shill of the Year Nominee No. 4 – Dr Rachael Dunlop

Next – oh be still my beating heart – is Dr Rachael Dunlop.

Oh. My. God. I used to watch her at the movies when I was just knee-high to a grass-hopper!

Oh, whoops! No! That was Audrey Hepburn. Easy to mix them up, though. In the science community Dr Dunlop is ‘da-bomb’.

I’ve hugged her too – one of the highlights of my skeptical career .

(Oops, did I say ‘career’ – that would imply I get ‘paid’ wouldn’t it? Shhhhh!).

If Wilyman is looking for Big Pharma shills she needn’t look much further than Dr Dunlop.

Dr Dunlop is another one of those damned people who, unlike Judy Wilyman (and me!) actually manged to complete her PhD.

Dr Dunlop’s thesis examined the mechanisms of impaired degradation of oxidised proteins with a focus on the consequences for heart disease. Her current project is unravelling a role for the incorporation of non-native amino acids into neuronal proteins and how this might contribute to cell death, specifically with respect to sporadic MND motor neuron disease) or ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). In particular, Dr Dunlop is looking at the role of the cyanobacterial toxin BMAA and how it might contribute to ALS.

Clearly, this makes her eminently unqualified to speak authoritatively on matters pertaining to science – although she is very good at reading from a Big Pharma script with a large cheque printed on the back of it.

Big Pharma Shill of the Year Nominee No. 5 – Peter Bowditch

The fifth nominee is Peter Bowditch, and a more disreputable character you’re unlikely to meet anywhere. Oh wait! I’ve hugged him too! But I think I might have been a wee bit drunk at the time.

Bowditch is a management consultant, IT expert, TAFE teacher and former president of the Australian Skeptics. A bit of an under-achiever, really.

Bowditch has a BA from Macquarie University where he majored in Cognitive Psychology, with other work in the areas of statistics, experimental design, psychological testing, linguistics, philosophy of science and epistemology. Bowditch also holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Technology Management.

An executive of the Australian Computer Society, and a member since 1978, Bowditch is a Certified Technologist. Obviously, none of this requires a great deal of brain power, so he spends his idle hours shilling for Big Pharma.

Big Pharma Shill of the Year Nominee No. 6 – Dr David Hawkes

Dr David Hawkes is one of the few nominees I don’t seem to have hugged. Come on Dr Hawkes – front up!

Dr Hawkes works at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in the Peptide Neurobiology Group. He undertook his PhD at the Burnet Institute in molecular virology, examining the role of viral membrane components on the early stages of HIV-1 replication. He has recently competed postdoctoral work within the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Melbourne using viral vectors to examine the contribution of free radicals to the cardiovascular and behavioural responses to emotional stress. His current research interests focus on driving the use of cutting edge viral and molecular (including pharmacogenetic) tools to examine the neurobiological nature of neuropeptide signalling in vivo.

You got it – just another Big Pharma shill.

Big Pharma Shill of the Year Nominee No. 7 – Paul Gallagher

I reckon I’m a shoe-in to beat Paul Gallagher, a fellow blogger whose skeptical blog, Losing in the Lucky Country, is obviously financed by Big Pharma – how else could he afford all that bling???? – well, to be honest, no bling, but there’s a photo of Parliament House. THAT couldn’t have been cheap!

Gallagher, one of Australia’s leading skeptics, has a Bachelor of Applied Science and works as an allied health professional. Phhht! You’re dead meat, Gallagher!

Big Pharma Shill of the Year Nominee No. 8 – Rick Morton

And then there’s Rick Morton. Rick is the dark horse of the competition, but I reckon if I could get him into a dark alley, I could take him down.

Oh, did I say that aloud? I mean, I’m just incredibly honoured to be nominated alongside Rick!

Morton was previously the news editor at, He is now a journalist at the Australian newspaper. He has a degree in journalism from Bond University and is no doubt using the buckets of money he receives from Big Pharma to repay the fees.

Big Pharma Shill of the Year Nominee No. 9 – Mia Freedman

Mia Freedman is one of Australia’s best known journalists. Following a stellar career in magazine publishing, during which she was named Editor of the Year by the Association of Magazine Publishers Australia, Freedman worked as creative director at the Nine Network before starting Mamamia – one of Australia’s most successful professional blogs.

It is rumoured that the recent $3 billion buy out of Channel 9 was largely financed by the money Freedman receives for her weekend job as a shill for Big Pharma.

Big Pharma Shill of the Year Nominee No. 10

Me! Chrys Stevenson! I just can’t believe I’m in such illustrious company! Me! Who, like Judy Wilyman, never actually managed to finish my PhD.

But, just like Ms Wilyman I did manage a poor second by winning the Griffith University Medal for Academic Excellence with a near perfect grade-point average for my undergraduate work and first-class honours thesis – or, was that just me? I get so confoozled some days, my poor little blonde head just hurts!

As Ms Wilyman points out,I have no background in science, vaccination policy, environmental health or health promotion and, unlike Ms Wilyman, I have never pretended to. Silly me, eh?

In fact, what I have done is look at what ‘actual’ experts say in ‘actual’ peer-reviewed science journals and report on that – not my opinions, their opinions.

But hey, let’s not nit-pick. The money is pouring in from Big Pharma and, like my illustrious co-nominees, I never have to think about what to say or write about vaccination. Once a month, a long black limousine pulls up at my door, a spook in a trench-coat and dark sunglasses emerges, tests me with the ‘secret phrase’ (“the birds fly south in winter”), then he presses a brown paper bag into my hands. Stuffed full of hundred dollar bills, the bag also contains the pro-vaccination script for the next month. Lickety split! All I have to do is transcribe it onto my blog.

Obviously, I am nowhere near as well-qualified as the other nominees, but I reckon I deserve points for the sheer brazen hussiness I’ve displayed in getting myself a guernsey in this little Wilyman conspiracy fantasy.

So, I’d like to thank the Academy and say to Ms Wilyman, “You LIKE me, you really LIKE me!”

Chrys Stevenson

Related ‘financed by Big Pharma’ posts:

Judy Wilyman PhD candidate, Wollongong University ‘false, dangerous, misleading and disrespectful’

Why Wollongong’s abdication of responsibility for Wilyman won’t wash

Blow. Your. Mind: religion in Australia’s ‘secular’ state schools

“Secular is whatever has reference to this life. Secular instruction is instruction respecting the concerns of this life. Secular subjects therefore are all subjects except religion. All the arts and sciences are secular knowledge. To say that secular means irreligious implies that all the arts and sciences are irreligious, and is very like saying that all professions except that of the law are illegal. There is a difference between irreligious and not religious, however it may suit the purposes of many persons to confound it. Now on the principles of religious freedom which we were led to believe that it was the purpose of this Association to accept, instruction on subjects not religious is as much the right of those who will not accept religious instruction as of those who will. To know the laws of the physical world, the properties of their own bodies and minds, the past history of their species, is as much a benefit to the Jew, the Mussulman, the Deist, the Atheist, as to the orthodox churchman ; and it is as iniquitous to withhold it from them. Education provided by the public must be education for all, and to be education for all it must be purely secular education.”

– John Stuart Mill, Speech on Secular Education (not delivered), 1849

My article on the proceedings of the Separation of Church and State School conference, hosted by the Humanist Society of Queensland on 13-14 October, appears on ABC’s Religion and Ethics portal today.

Faith in schools: The dismantling of Australia’s secular public education system

This article covers the key areas in which religion is intruding upon our secular public education system:

1. Religious Instruction classes

2. School chaplaincy

3. State funding for religious schools

4. Creationism in the science classroom

Horror stories abound – and not just from the parents who attended the conference. Significantly, senior representatives of the Queensland Teachers’ Union and the Australian Council of State School Organisations both made clear, public statements that their organisations are deeply concerned – for various reasons – about the dismantling of secular public education in Australia.

Adding weight to these arguments were Dr Cathy Byrne and Professor Marion Maddox – both researchers into religion and education in Australia. Maddox, I believe, has a book on this subject to be released in 2013.

Peter Harrison from the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists provided a very helpful insight into how they’re tackling the problem of religion in schools ‘across the pond’.

And, of course, our own Ron Williams and Hugh Wilson of the Australian Secular Lobby spoke on behalf of the many, many parents who have contacted them  – often in tears of frustration – over the vexatious issue of religion in schools.

A former Pentecostal pastor in the audience also added some very interesting tid-bits of information!

But it was a surprise speaker who  left us all speechless with revelations about creationism being taught ‘as science’ in at least one Queensland school.  After hearing her speak, I put up my hand to ask a question, opened my mouth and, I swear, words just wouldn’t come. I was in shock!

Read all about it on Religious and Ethics!

And, as a bonus for my readers, here’s a bit that didn’t make it into the R&E article.

Ron Williams noted that most of the letters the ASL receive from parents about religion in state schools tend to begin with “I am utterly speechless … ” or “I was gobsmacked to discover that …” . To illustrate, he told of just such a letter from an irate parent who received an email from their child’s science teacher during the school holidays. The teacher wanted to show excerpts from a video to the class in the first lesson after the holidays but, as it contained ‘references to the Bible and God’, she saw fit to ask for parental consent. If parents objected, she said, she could find their child ‘some other work for them to complete during this time’ (presumably sitting at the back of the class where the video was being shown!).

The science teacher explains that the video is Indescribable by Louie Giglio, an American Christian speaker “who uses amazing space facts, pictures and sounds to illustrate his points about our place in God’s universe” [my emphasis]. Apparently the ‘space content’ of the video was relevant to what the children were learning in their science class.

Here is a snippet from the video the science teacher proposed to show the students in a so-called secular state school. Be prepared to be appalled.

Don’t miss the bit at 5:06 where Louis tells students they wouldn’t have wanted to be there when God created the world – “You would not have wanted to be there the day He said, ‘Let there be light’,” says Louis, “because when He opened his mouth, light came flying out of the mouth of God traveling 186,000 miles a second – that’s the speed of light …”

Talking about God and the cosmos, Louis promises to ‘Blow. Your. Mind.’ Well, the idea of this stuff being shown in a science class in a secular public school blows my mind – what about yours?

If you find that ‘gobsmacking’, go to the R&E article and read just how bad it gets …

Faith in schools: the dismantling of Australia’s public education system

Chrys Stevenson

Dr Cathy Byrne is still collecting information for her Religion in Public Education research. If you are a teacher or a parent with a story to tell, please contact Cathy at

Praise the Lord for Reverend Snider’s Rant on Gay Rights!

Oh, brothers and sisters. I have been poorly deceived! But now I have seen the light. I have heard the word of a true man of God and, lo, I have heard from him words of such wisdom that I can do nothing but shout his sermon to the fine people of Springfield, Missouri,  from the rooftops.  The Reverend Dr. Phil Snider of the Brentwood Christian Church,  says EXACTLY what the world needs to hear, and I hope you will help this go viral.  (You need to watch this to the very end to understand the Reverend’s true message.)

You may wish to send your blessings to the Reverend Dr. Snider at philsnider at gmail dot com

Chrys Stevenson

#Qandas Interruptus – How the Boys’ Club lynched Kate Ellis on Q&A

I watched Q&A in absolute horror last night as the Federal Minister for Employment, Kate Ellis, was the subject of one of the worst displays of misogynistic disrespect and bullying I’ve ever seen  – not excluding my many years observing Olympic standard misogynistic bullying in action in various sales meetings and boardrooms throughout corporate Australia.

I was so sickened by the actions of Liberal MP, Christopher Pyne, former ALP MHR, Lindsay Tanner and Daily Telegraph columnist, Piers Akerman that I allocated an inordinate amount of time to compiling a detailed analysis of the Q&A transcript.

Regular readers will remember that this is a device I used following the misogynistic remarks made about Catherine Deveny’s recent Q&A appearance.

You can watch Monday night’s show here.

In what looked for all the world like a trio of blood-thirsty wolves cornering a deer, Pyne, Tanner  and Akerman did everything they could to prevent Ellis from gaining any traction whatsoever. Every time she tried to speak, these three slavering curs descended on her with jibes, interruptions and, on one occasion, a totally inappropriate side-conversation – all intended  to cripple her effectiveness, and diminish and detract from her message.

Every word, every gesture, said, “Back off, lady, this is men’s business and you’re out of your depth. Get back to the kitchen where you belong.”

Ellis was in a Catch 22 position. If she asserted herself and turned on the dogs, she would be branded a harridan and a shrew. Instead, she maintained her composure under incredible duress and did her best to soldier on under impossible conditions, with insufficient help from Jones.

I have no particular opinion on Ellis as a politician but no woman – in fact, no person –  should be invited on to national television and treated the way she was last night – particularly not a government minister. It was deeply despicable and, in a week where misogyny has been headlline news, the nation should have witnessed far more circumspect behaviour from these three buffoons.

Unlike Deveny, despite constant interruptions, Ellis almost managed to hold her own in terms of word count but still did not achieve parity.

Here is the night’s tally:

  • Pyne – 2, 400 words
  • Tanner – 2, 142 words
  • Ellis – 1, 962 words
  • Sun – 1,204 words
  • Akerman – 1,059 words

Despite Ellis’s efforts, Christopher Pyne and Lindsay Tanner still managed to dominate the program; both speaking 23 per cent more than she. Akerman seemed uninterested in the whole affair. Like a fat cat lying on the living room sofa, he interrupted his ennui only to take lazy swipes at Ellis.

As usual, the men dominated the show. Not including host, Tony Jones’, contribution, Pyne took up 28 per cent of the program (by word count), Tanner 24 per cent, Ellis 22 per cent, Sun 14 per cent and Akerman 12 per cent.

The three male guests (excluding Jones) accounted for 64 per cent of the words spoken during Monday night’s Q&A and the two women managed only 36 per cent.

But, word count aside,  the horror story of this week’s program is the concerted efforts of Pyne, Akerman and Tanner to interrupt Ellis so frequently that she managed, mostly, only to speak in stuttered phrases.

Ellis’s heroic 1,962 words were interrupted 36 times during the course of the program – that’s once every 55 words and more than once every two minutes.

The major offender was Christopher Pyne who butted in to Ellis’ conversations an incredible 21 times – an average of one interruption for every three minutes of air time. And that was just against Ellis!

In all, serial offender Pyne interrupted other speakers, including Jones, a total of 34 times. Compare this with Catherine Deveny who drew the wrath of the Twitterverse and a misogynistic media upon her head by interrupting just four times during the course of a program. Where are the newspaper editorials about Pyne’s performance?

Tanner and Akerman made 11 interruptions each. Like Pyne, their major target was Ellis – 5 interruptions from Tanner and 6 from Akerman. Jones interrupted the Minister for Employment four times, the most notable when she opened her mouth to answer a question from an audience member and before she had a chance to speak, Jones said, “We’ll take that as a comment” and directed the next question to her nemesis, Christopher Pyne!

The American guest, Nilaja Sun, barely got a look in and was effectively side-lined by the rude posturing of Pyne and Tanner in particular. It was a cringe-worthy performance in front of an international guest who deserved more respect and more air time. I understand she got much fairer coverage on Richard Fidler’s “In Conversation” program.

There are two incidents during Monday night’s show which highlight the appalling behaviour of Pyne, Tanner and Akerman. In the first, as Ellis tries to address a question from audience member, Georgina Freeman, (ironically about Tony Abbott’s misogyny), Pyne and Tanner launch in to a kind of inept, vaudevillian double-act.

TONY JONES: Kate Ellis?

KATE ELLIS: Well, can I just say first up what I’m not going to take is a lecture from Piers Akerman on women issues and how women feel about issues in this country and I am really glad we’re actually able to speak on this. Going back to the actual question, I mean I think there is a couple of different issues here. What Australian women have been concerned about is not that Tony Abbott does not love his wife. Of course he does. It is not that Tony Abbott doesn’t love his daughters. It is not even whether Tony Abbott likes Downton Abbey or not. Like that was all very nice…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: It’s a disgraceful campaign, Kate.

KATE ELLIS: That was all nice but it’s completely…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: It’s an orchestrated campaign.

KATE ELLIS: …irrelevant to the concerns of Australian women…

LINDSAY TANNER: Don’t you like Downton Abbey either?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I love Downton Abbey.

KATE ELLIS: …and that is, if you’re going to…

LINDSAY TANNER: It’s a very good show.

KATE ELLIS: …if you’re going to…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I like the Dowager Duchess too. I think she’s hysterical.

LINDSAY TANNER: Maggie Smith is sensational. Sensational.

Only then does Tony Jones step in, saying mildly, “Can we allow the comments to continue?”

Towards the end of the program, at Jones’ invitation, Ellis tries doggedly to address a question from the audience:

TONY JONES: Let’s see if Kate Ellis wants to talk about the questions from the audience.

KATE ELLIS: Well, I absolutely would.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Why haven’t we talked about the speaker?

KATE ELLIS: And I’d just say that I don’t share Lindsay’s diagnosis at all and I think that if there is a criticism of this Government, it cannot be short-term policy making. When you have look at real policies to increase…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: What about the emissions trading scheme that was axed and brought back?

KATE ELLIS: …to increase superannuation from 9 to 12%; to increase the retirement age; to bring in a price on carbon…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: What about reopening Nauru?

KATE ELLIS: …to build a National Broadband Network, none of these are in place…


KATE ELLIS: …by the next election.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Citizens’ assembly.

KATE ELLIS: This is about building our country for the challenges of the future.

PIERS AKERMAN: Price watch.

KATE ELLIS: This is because we…

PIERS AKERMAN: Grocery watch.

KATE ELLIS: …absolutely have a purpose…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: This list is endless.

KATE ELLIS: …and we’re very clear about it…

PIERS AKERMAN: Pink batts.

TONY JONES: Okay. All right.

KATE ELLIS: …and despite these interruptions, are going to remain absolutely focused on it.

Cheers from the audience for Ellis show how the trolls’ egregious behaviour backfired badly within the studio, at least.

Let us be clear, Pyne, Akerman and Tanner did not receive reciprocal treatment, either from Ellis or from each other. This wasn’t ‘par for the course’. This was a cowardly three against one attack specifically directed at Ellis because she was a woman and unlikely, for the reasons I’ve canvassed above, to fight back.

By my count, Pyne was the second most interrupted guest but mainly because poor Jones spent a great deal of time trying to shut him up – a total of 10 interruptions from the host.

Ellis interrupted Pyne only twice while he, you may recall, interrupted her 21 times.

Pyne was interrupted 3 times by Tanner, once by Akerman and twice by Sun.

In total, the women on the panel were responsible for 12 interruptions and the male guests, 56; the men interrupted around 350 per cent more than the female panelists.

The quandary, of course, is “How should women respond to this kind of bullying?”

I can quite understand that Ellis did not wish to be distracted by the kind of vilification meted out to Deveny. On the other hand, is the correct response really just to soldier on without calling the bullies out for their deplorable manners?

I am not arguing that Ellis should be protected from intense questioning about the ALP’s policies because she is a woman. I am not suggesting that male politicians and journalists should ‘go soft’ on women. But, I think it was clear to everyone watching Q&A on Monday night that this was a particularly gendered attack which cynically capitalised on the fact there was not a strategy Ellis could employ that would not damage her.

I would have liked to have seen the three-stooges try their little stunt on Bob Hawke or Paul Keating and see how they came out of it!

But, as a woman, Ellis’s options were limited. She could fight back and be criticised for being strident, or she could maintain her dignity and appear weak and ineffectual. I will not criticize her for her choosing the latter, but oh how I wish more women would brave the first option and call the misogynist bastards out as Julia Gillard did so magnificently in Parliament today.

THIS! THIS is how we women should respond to the pathetic efforts of men like Pyne, Tanner, Ackerman and Abbott; men who want to scare us off their turf, to sideline us, and to frighten us into submission. THIS is the appropriate response. We must no longer sit silently and demurely in the face of this bastardry in order to appear ‘nice’ . We must respond with all the power we can muster and say, “I WILL NOT BE TREATED LIKE THIS!”  And yes, we will be called every name under the sun, but isn’t that better than compliance? Isn’t that better than being silenced? Isn’t that better than trading real power and a real voice for ‘nice’?

Chrys Stevenson

See also Ben Pobjie’s excellent account of Monday’s Q&A

My Working Document Q&A  is available for anyone who wants to check my figures.

NB:  Q&A is a discussion program and one need not, necessarily, be perjorative about interruptions. They are a natural part of conversation. I concede that many of the interruptions counted in this analysis are ‘benign’. However, I believe that when, as we see here, one panellist (or a group of panellists) are responsible for a particularly high rate of interruptions and against one person in particular, it casts doubt on just how ‘benign’ those interruptions were.

Related Article:  The Blokeyness Index: blokes win the gender war in Australia’s 4th Estate – Chrys Stevenson in the King’s Tribune

(A substantial part of this article is available free. The whole article can be accessed for a small charge.)


The Decline of Religious Authority – Brisbane Writers’ Festival

Here is a video well worth watching. You can see it at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival website. (Click “watch now”.)

Paul Barclay from Radio National speaks to journalist, David Marr, the former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway, and Scott Stephens, editor of the ABC’s Religion and Ethics portal.

The discussion centres around the paradox of the waning authority and relevance of religion contrasted with the continuing influence of Christian lobbyists upon politicians and policy.

The theists on the panel provide a thoughtful, nuanced view of Christianity which is rarely seen in the popular media and is certainly drowned out by the bleatings of the troglodytes of the Australian Christian Lobby. In fact, it is interesting to hear Scott Stephens argue that Christian lobbyists are anathema to his concept of Christianity while David Marr argues that Christians lobbyists should participate in the political process.

I highly recommend this thought-provoking discussion.

Chrys Stevenson

“The devil made me do it!” – Australian Christian Lobby on ABC’s Lateline


That long, low, mournful sound you heard last night wasn’t a werewolf howling at the moon. It wasn’t a milking cow enduring a particularly painful labour. Nor was it Tony Abbott reading the latest Newspoll results.

No. That heart-rending, plate clattering, awful noise, was the sound of the beleaguered staff of the Australian Christian Lobby’s public relations agency watching Lateline.

As I watched the tape of the show this morning, I couldn’t help but imagine the discussions that must have gone on at PR HQ, somewhere, deep in a bat cave, beneath Mt Ainslie ….


PR Guy 1: Right, listen up. We’ve had a phone call from Lateline. They want to interview Jim Wallace about the ACL’s failing reputation and diminishing influence.

PR Guy 2: Well that ain’t gonna happen! Since homo-smoko-gate we’ve had Jim stowed in a back room with gaffer tape over his mouth.

Wallace ‘going rogue’ again lost us the bloody Prime Minister as the keynote speaker for the National Conference. There’s no way we’re putting Jim anywhere near a microphone until the conference opens. Fuck, if we let Jim loose again we’ll be lucky to get fucking Pauline Hanson as a keynote speaker!

PR Guy 1: Fair enough. How about we put Lyle Shelton on Lateline, then?

PR Guy 2: Bwahahaha!

PR Guy 1: Fair point.

Pr Guy 2: OK, what about the ACL’s Chairman, Tony McLellan?

Pr Guy 1: McLellan? He’s more bonkers than Jimbo!

Pr Guy 2: Yeah, but we could coach him, get him to stay on message – make sure he doesn’t go rogue like Jim does.

Pr Guy 1: Hmmm … could work. Does he have a Twitter account?

Pr Guy 2: Not as far as I know …

Pr Guy 1: Well, we haven’t got much choice, have we? Let’s call him in ….


Later that day …

PR Guy 1: Right now, Tony, you understand how important this is. Jim’s done a great job trashing the ACL’s reputation over the last couple of years – we’ve had the ANZAC Day tweet, the Nazi crack at Dr Kerryn Phelps  (he knew she was Jewish, right?),  that damned graph that showed Wallace’s fucking needle’s stuck on same-sex marriage and damn-the-bloody-poor-and- homeless.

Then there was homo-smoko gate, the Tasmanian gay marriage debate debacle, and that fucking Stevenson woman droning on about the ACL being dominionists.

I’ve got to be up front here Tony, the ACL’s  beginning to look like a bloody circus and you can’t go on national television sounding like the ringmaster.

Pr Guy 2: Right. What we’re looking for is a moderate approach. You need to be calm, statesmanlike and above all, don’t say anything stupid.

PR Guy 1: Remember all that money you  guys paid to Capacity Builders, to help create a new image? Remember how they rebranded the ACL and tried to position you as a balanced and compassionate ‘voice for values’?  Well, Jim’s pretty much pissed that up against the wall. But, that’s what we’re aiming for; balanced, compassionate, moderate.

PR Guy 2: The thing is, Tony – and I know you don’t want to hear this, mate – the majority of the population support same-sex marriage.  Fuck! The majority of Christians support same-sex marriage! You do get what that means, don’t you?

Most Australians think the ACL is denying homosexuals a fair go. If we’re talking about ‘values’, Tony, giving your mates a ‘fair go’ is a pretty big issue for most Aussies. The fact is, the ACL’s looking un-Australian. Frankly, you’re cultivating a reputation as a  load of Bible bashing bullying bastards. Let’s face it, with Jim representing you, you’re coming across as a  lorry load of fucking fruit loops! Christ! Even the Victorian Council of Churches disassociated itself from you.

You want to look ecumenical? If you keep following Jim Wallace’s lead, the ACL will be so far to the right even Danny Nalliah will be calling you guys too extreme!

PR Guy 1: And Tony, while you’re on air, don’t give that Stevenson bitch any ammunition for her dominionist rants, will you? She’s like a fucking mosquito, that woman! Can we just hold back on the whole ‘spiritual warfare’ thing? You know she’ll just equate it with the Reclaim 7 Mountains movement. You did get that link to the ACL taken off their website, didn’t you? And you’ve burned all the copies of that bloody, “Join the Campaign to Reclaim Australia” poster? We don’t want that turning up on national TV! Thank Christ Stevenson didn’t find it when she did that hatchet job on ABC’s Religion and Ethics.

Look, Tony, we know you guys have swallowed all this ‘shield of faith, boots of readiness, belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, sword of spirit, helmet of salvation’, spiritual armour, soldiers for Jesus crap. But y’know, Tony, religious nutters making military references tends to make the public a wee bit nervous, OK?  Don’t do it.

PR Guy 2: And can we hold back on the Sunday school theology, Tone? You know all that Satan stuff is pretty much passé. Jesus! Even most American Christians don’t believe in Satan. If you start rabbiting on about the devil as if he’s a real person, it’s going to sound like you think Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are real and Gilligan’s Island is a documentary.

Think whatever you like privately, Tony, but mention Satan and it’s just not gonna play out well for ya, mate.

PR Guy 1: Just one last thing, Tony. Don’t play the fucking victim card. Most Australians have gay friends and relatives. Lots of them know gay teenagers who are cutting themselves, taking drugs, even committing suicide.

I’ve got to hand it to you. You guys have created quite a toxic environment out there for the gay community. You’ve worked long and hard to equate these ordinary Aussies with pedophiles, child abusers and people who fuck animals.

The research is in, Tony. Groups like the ACL are causing real harm to real people. Australians aren’t stupid. They know that. You’re going to look a right goose if you go on television as a straight, white, middle-class man and play the victim card when gay teenagers are topping themselves at an alarming rate. Don’t do it, right? I’m warning you! If you do, you’re going to look like a heartless, out of touch, tosser – just like the one we’ve got gaffer-taped up in the back room.

So, this is your chance to redress the balance. Get in there, be calm, be reasonable, be moderate, and show them the ACL isn’t the out of touch, fundamentalist, fruit-cake factory everyone thinks it is. Can ya do that Tony?

Good. Here’s the ABC crew.

Remember, the one thing we don’t want is for the ACL to come out of this interview looking like a bunch of fucking delusional, homophobic, victim-blaming, right-wing loonies!


Lateline – 7.30pm Thursday, 4 October

BEN MCLEAN: … as the ACL prepares for its national conference, it’s under increasing scrutiny itself.

Two months ago, this list of keynote speakers for the conference included Prime Minister Julia Gillard. That was until the Lobby’s general manager Jim Wallace claimed homosexuals had a shorter life expectancy than smokers, sparking a storm of criticism.

TONY MCLELLAN, CHAIRMAN, ACL: We’ve been attacked and I suppose I put it down to a group in the media who don’t like the influence that we’ve apparently had in this debate about gay marriage.

BEN MCLEAN: The chairman of the ACL board Tony McClellan says Australia is in the midst of a spiritual war.

TONY MCLELLAN: It’s against the kingdom of God by the Devil. The Devil doesn’t like God and doesn’t like everything God stands for. I would say that people who are trying to change the definition of marriage, which has its roots in Christianity, are obviously trying to deconstruct Christians’  views of what marriage should be. And they well may be motivated by the evil one to do that …

BEN MCLEAN: … Reverend Sue Wickham and her partner Leanne Jenski founded Christians for Gay Marriage specifically to counter the ACL.

SUE WICKHAM, CHRISTIANS FOR GAY MARRIAGE: The number of people Leanne and I encounter who have been ostracised from their churches, from their families because people hold “Christian” values like the ACL is just phenomenal.

…  They can say that they are moderate and represent the views of the majority of Australian Christians, but then when, you know, one of their key speakers says something ridiculous like, “It’s better for your health to smoke than to be a homosexual,” they dump themselves right into the, you know – well, the right-wing loony camp.


PR Guys 1 and 2 (in unison) …

Chrys Stevenson



Rainbow Apathy

My second (and first original) article for Doug (The Rainbow Reporter) Pollard’s new website, The Stirrer tackles the problem of apathy in the gay rights/equal marriage movement.  They’re not alone of course – apathy is a universal problem and certainly not confined to the LGBTIQ community!

The article is a response to a dear friend who’s suffering from activism burn-out.

I woke up this morning with sentences rattling around in my head and just had to write it.

Here’s how it begins:

“A dear friend emailed me last night. A gay man, he’s a passionate advocate for LGBTIQ health, equal rights and same-sex marriage. When there’s a letter to be written, a submission to be made, a politician to be educated, a hearing to attend, a seminar to be planned, a rally to be organised or a meeting to be convened, my friend is there – ‘pink jackboots’ and all – putting in 200 per cent to make a difference. He’s a firecracker.

But last night, his mood was low as he wrote that he was stepping back – for a while at least – for the sake of his ‘mental health and well-being’. I knew he was burning out – I’ve been worried about him for a while now. But, the final straw came this week when, leading yet another gallant charge for equality, he paused to look behind him –  and found there was no-one there. His rainbow army had somehow fizzled away – too busy, too tired, too distracted, too apathetic to help him fight for their rights. He is hurt, bewildered and, frankly, bereft.”

[Click here to read more on The Stirrer ….]

Chrys Stevenson

Conference: Separation of Church and State Schools – Time for Reform in Queensland

It’s short notice but the Humanist Society of Queensland is holding a vitally important Separation of Church and State Schools conference in Brisbane, the weekend after next – 13/14 October.

If you’re in or near Brisbane, please consider joining me at this event.

The HSQ has put together a remarkable line-up of speakers including:

  • Ron Williams (plaintiff in the High Court Challenge against the National School Chaplaincy Program)
  • Dr Marion Maddox (author of God Under Howard: the rise of the religious right in Australia)
  • Peter Garrigan (President – Australian Council of State School Organisations)
  • Greg Purches (Deputy General Secretary – Queensland Teachers’ Union)
  • Dr Cathy Byrne (Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, researcher into religion in public education – Macquarie University)
  • Hugh Wilson (National Director, Australian Secular Lobby)
  • Peter Harrison, New Zealand Association of  Rationalists and Humanists

Many will not be aware that Australia has no formal separation of church and state (despite Section 116 of the Constitution). This was established in the landmark Defence of Government Schools (DOGS) case of 1981.

Further, as the flyer for the Separation of Church and State Schools conference explains:

“While the Education Acts of NSW, Victoria and the ACT retain clauses requiring only secular material to be taught in public schools, the critically important section above was removed from the Queensland Education Act in 1910 to enable the provision of Bible lessons by staff teachers as part of Christian Religious Instruction—an arrangement that has remained enshrined within Queensland education law to this day.

100 years on, the resulting lack of any secular safeguards within the Queensland Education Act legitimises the widespread inclusion within the K-12 state school curriculum of what Education Queensland’s Religious Education Advisory Committee, REAC, describes as “creationist theory”.

Here’s an interesting overview of the situation:

Shocked? You should be!

Incredibly, when approached by the Australian Secular Lobby, the Bligh Labor government advised they had ‘no intention’ of restoring the word ‘secular’ to the Queensland Education Act. There is even less chance now, with the heavily evangelical Newman Liberal government. It may well be the only way forward is through legal action. As Ron Williams says, there are hundreds of untried Kitzmiller vs Dover cases just waiting to be heard in Queensland.

There is no political will to change this situation in Queensland or, more broadly, in Australia. Only we, the parents, citizens, teachers and principals can make a difference. The first step is to attend this ground-breaking conference.

The HSQ’s Separation of Church and State Schools conference begins on Saturday evening, 13 October,  with the screening of a remarkable film, The Lord is Not on Trial Here Today. Here’s the trailer:

The speaking program is on Sunday at the conference venue:

George Williams Hotel Conference Centre
317-325 George Street, Brisbane

I hope to see you there! If you’re in Queensland, or know people who are – especially parents and teachers – please share the link to this blog post and encourage them to attend.

Chrys Stevenson

Separation of Church and State Schools Conference – Book Now

Recommended reading:

Creationist hijack lessons and teach schoolkids man and dinosaurs walked together

False prophets: Qld LNP votes to remove climate change from schools

Row over creationist’s class lecture

Genesis of a complaint

Mother rails against religion in schools

Mother’s crusade against Bibles at Urangan State High School

School chaplaincy case: a missed opportunity for secular education, by Catherine Byrne

Christian schools a ‘threat’ against secularism says expert [Marion Maddox]

Lobbyists for reform in religion in public education:

Australian Secular Lobby

Fairness in Religion in Schools

Religion, Ethics and Education Network of Australia (REENA)

Humanist Society of Queensland

High Court Challenge

Facebook: Stop the National School Chaplaincy Program

Parents 4 Ethics (NSW)