Weekend Wrap for 1 February 2020

As the second public consultation period closes for the divisive Religious Discrimination Bill, many stakeholders are doubling down on their criticism, and Labor has sought input from some sections of society. This is the Weekend Wrap of secular news and views from the past week.

Don’t forget that the Weekend Wrap, which aims to help secular-minded Australians keep abreast of the latest news on current issues, is also published on our Facebook page!

The National View

Labor Leader Anthony Albanese has met with community representatives – though not including secular, atheist, rationalist or humanist groups – for consultations on the revised Religious Discrimination Bill, but did not commit his party to opposing it (Star Observer).

The Australian Medical Association has warned that the Religious Discrimination Bill would harm patients’ rights to access healthcare and allow religious hospitals to discriminate against doctors (The Guardian).

Businesses would be placed in a ‘perilous’ and ‘very expensive’ position in trying to balance the rights of religious and non-religious employees if the Religious Discrimination Bill passed the parliament, according to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SMH).

Australian Human Rights Commissioner Ed Santow has labelled the draft Religious Discrimination Bill as “unacceptable”, as it did not protect human rights “in a way that protects the entire community equally” (The Guardian).

Constitutional law expert and National Secular Lobby ambassador Luke Beck has argued that provisions in the draft bill appear to be “motivated by a desire to allow people to be nasty to others" (SMH).

Christian Schools Australia is urging the government to scrap a proposal for a freedom of religion commissioner because there is no guarantee that the officer holder will be a ‘person of faith’ (The Australian).

Israel Folau has agreed to keep his religious views private in signing a contract to play with Catalans Dragons (ABC).

Around the Country

VIC: Reason Party Leader and National Secular Lobby ambassador Fiona Patten has labelled the refusal of a doctor to prescribe contraception as ‘disgraceful behaviour’ that would be exacerbated under proposed ‘religious freedom’ laws (10 Daily).

VIC: The Greens will re-introduce to the state parliament legislation to protect students and teachers at faith-based schools from discrimination by removing current exemptions (Star Observer).

QLD: Christian schools and other groups that are concerned about proposed laws to ban gay conversion therapy have called on the state government to guarantee they can “continue to teach a traditional Biblical sexual ethic” (The Guardian).

VIC: Members of the legal fraternity joined Red Mass at the invitation of Archbishop Peter Comensoli, who last year pledged to ignore new laws requiring Catholic priests to report information about child abuse gained through the confession (ABC).

TAS: Independent state MP Mike Gaffney has released for public consultation a draft of his voluntary assisted dying bill, known as the End-of-LIfe Choices Bill (The Advocate).

TAS: New Premier Peter Gutwein declined to make clear his position on the proposed voluntary assisted dying legislation (ABC).

TAS: The daughters of Diane Gray, who died after an ‘intolerable’ battle with cancer, are honouring their mother’s legacy by fighting for voluntary assisted dying laws to be introduced in the state (ABC).

NSW: Deputy Premier John Barilaro has poured cold water on the effort to have voluntary assisted dying put on the agenda of the Berejiklian government, saying his government was focused on helping communities recover from drought and bushfires (Port News).

Commentary and Analysis

Despite claiming to have been acting in ‘good faith’ in developing the Religious Discrimination Bill, the Morrison government has done everything but, writes Alastair Lawrie.

Paul Gregoire makes the case for why Australia needs a bill of human rights instead of legislation designed to protect one right – religious belief – above all else (The Big Smoke).

Lydia Shelly writes that we’re all being co-opted by intolerant political and faith leaders who are willing to sacrifice not only secularism but our shared values as Australians (The Guardian).

Steve Davies takes a look at how religious ideology has infiltrated the Australian government and is influencing policy on a range of issues (AIM).

In this editorial, The Examiner argues that Tasmanians deserve a chance to ‘debate’ the proposed voluntary assisted legislation bill.

That's it for another week!

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