Weekend Wrap for 1 March 2020

Catch up on the news and views in the secular space from the past week in the new Weekend Wrap. There was plenty on the Religious Discrimination Bill during a week in which the new #DontDivideUs campaign launched. Please let us know if we’ve missed anything!

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

Former High Court Justice Michael Kirby launched the #DontDivideUs campaign for an alliance of pro-secular groups, headed by the Rationalist Society and including the National Secular Lobby, to combat the Religious Discrimination Bill (News).

Michael Kirby said he was fearful that the proposed legislation would lead to people of faith using "religious belief as a weapon against non-believers" and would result in anti-religious hostility (SMH).

In this radio interview, Michael Kirby warned that the proposed legislation would, if passed by the parliament, be a ‘bonanza’ for the legal profession (ABC).

Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe took his campaign against the Religious Discrimination Bill to Parliament House, telling MPs that the proposed legislation went against the Australian notion of a ‘fair go’ (ABC).

Employers and unions have joined forces to oppose the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill, with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and Australian Industry Group (AiG) warning that the legislation would damage workplace harmony and risk harm to staff and customers (The Age).

Attorney-General Christian Porter accused the ACTU and the AiG of “badly” misstating the expected impacts of the proposed laws, arguing that the bill did not confer a positive right for religious people to discriminate in the workplace (The Australian).

Members of the Hindu community have demanded an apology from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg after he used 'demeaning' references to their religion in an answer during Question Time in parliament (SBS).

Some Christian players in the Wallabies felt muzzled by Rugby Australia during the Israel Folau saga last year, with newly released court documents suggesting this caused division in the locker room (The Australian).

Private schools could get a multi-billion-dollar boost under proposed new legislation that has been introduced to parliament to enable more funds to flow to those schools that attracted less well-off parents (News).

Around the Country

VIC: The Royal Women's Hospital was among 15 community health services which condemned the Religious Discrimination Bill in a letter to the Attorney-General, concerned that the proposed law would put at risk of many people whose rights to access health services could be "denied or disrespected” (The Age).

NSW: Independent MP Alex Greenwich urged attendees at the Sydney Mardi Gras to reject the Morrison government’s Religious Discrimination Bill, saying it would "deliberately undermine" Australian values (SBS).

NSW: Doctors in Wagga Wagga are speaking out about the influence of their religious colleagues who are creating a culture of fear for pro-choice medical practitioners who provide abortions (The Saturday Paper).

WA: Evangelical churches with strong links to Liberal politicians have won almost $40,000 in taxpayer-funded grants in the past four months, including $11,000 going to a church whose members federal MP Ian Goodenough previously said were helping to “support me and the Liberal party” (The Guardian).

QLD: Advocacy group Dying With Dignity Queensland has announced it will lead a public rally at Old Parliament House on 19 March to urge the Labor government to implement voluntary assisted dying laws before the October state election.

QLD: David Muir of the Clem Jones Group says the absence of voluntary assisted dying laws in the state is leading to seven terminally people killing themselves each month in ‘shocking ways’ (ABC).

VIC: A three-year research project into paedophile Catholic clerics in the state has identified 16 child sex abuse networks operating over six decades and involving 99 priests and Christian Brothers (The Age).

Commentary and Analysis

In this op-ed piece, former High Court justice Michael Kirby outlines why he believes the Religious Discrimination Bill will only divide Australians (SMH).

While the #DontDivideUs campaign stands a chance to mobilise community sentiment against the Religious Discrimination Bill, it remains to be see whether those in power will hear the call, writes Val Wilde (Friendly Atheist).

Attorney-General Christian Porter went on the attack against what he claimed were the ‘inaccurate’ views of constitutional expert and National Secular Lobby ambassador Luke Beck, writing that he rejected the notion that the proposed religious freedom laws would be a sword for religious people (Brisbane Times).

Luke Beck writes a rebuke to the Attorney-General’s claim that the draft religious freedom law is just a shield for religious people (The Age).

The Religious Discrimination Bill is important because ‘hardline secularists’ are raising “the temperature against religious Australians”, argues Murray Campbell (The Gospel Coaltion).

Tom Iggulden takes a look back at how the ‘religious freedom’ push emerged in the wake of the same-sex marriage plebiscite (ABC).

David Zyngier, an education expert and ambassador for the National Secular Lobby, says many religious schools are opposed to the proposed religious freedom laws because they don’t need further exemptions to discrimination laws (Sunday Nights with Reverend Bill Crews, 2GB).

Pondering the Prime Minister’s lack of accountability and arrogance, Mark Buckley dropped by a Pentecostal church service to get a bit more insight into what might drive Scott Morrison (John Menadue blog).

That's it for another week!

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