With the funding of religious chaplains causing a stir post-budget, Fiona Patten is preparing for a battle in Victoria. Catch up on a wide range of news and views on secular matters from the past week in the latest Weekend Wrap.

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!

At the National Level

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Governor-General David Hurley will discuss their faith at the National Prayer Breakfast on Monday morning, with the event being livestreamed from Parliament House (Eternity News).

The Morrison government has maintained funding for the National School Chaplaincy Program, with $61.4 million in the budget to put exclusively religious chaplains into public schools (Eternity News).

A national LGBTIQ+ advocacy group is calling for more funding for professional and non-religious counsellors under the National School Chaplaincy Program, arguing that all support staff in schools need need to be trained to affirm LGBTIQ+ students (Out in Perth).

Catholic Health Australia has criticised the federal government’s budget, saying more is needed in the aged-case sector to address the immediate financial pressures facing facilities due to the impacts of COVID-19 (Catholic Weekly).

The large increases in federal government funding to non-government schools will lead to an "acceleration in the long-standing large disparity” in funding between private and public schools, a state school lobby group says (SMH).

A Jewish lobby group has welcomed the federal government’s slashing of funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), arguing that the body’s policies and activities did not support the the commitment to a two-state peace and co-existence with a future Palestinian state (J-wire).

Cardinal George Pell’s lawyer is calling for an investigation into claims that a rival cardinal paid bribes to influence the sexual assault case in Victoria (The Guardian).

The father of the alleged choirboy victim in Pell’s cathedral has rejected the bribes claim as 'ludicrous' (The Guardian).

Campaigner for the rights of clerical abuse survivors Chrissie Foster has labelled the bribery claims as offensive and damaging to abuse survivors and called for an investigation (The Age).

Liberal senator Matt Canavan has revealed he would prefer not to have state anti-discrimination laws in place as the Morrison government seeks to protect “free speech in regards to religious freedom” (Out in Perth).

Liberal MP Dave Sharma and Labor MP Josh Burns will represent Australia on a newly established Inter-Parliamentary Task Force aiming to hold online platforms accountable in addressing antisemitism (Australian Jewish News).

Around the Country

VIC: The Andrews government is likely to oppose Reason Party Leader Fiona Patten’s push to remove religious discrimination in schools in the hiring of chaplains when debate begins in parliament this week (The Age).

VIC: In this video, a teacher claims that a religious chaplain employed in a school gave to a students photocopied pages of the Bible condemning homosexuality.

TAS: Mersey Independent MLC Mike Gaffney remains hopeful the voluntary assisted dying bill will pass Legislative Council as members of this council will this week thrash out amendments as part of the committee stage (The Mercury).

TAS: Residents of aged-care facilities may have difficulty accessing voluntary assisted dying support after a Catholic provider said it “would not participate or facilitate VAD in our homes” (The Advocate).

QLD: The husband of former Gold Coast Liberal politician Jann Stuckey has confirmed he will contest her old seat in the upcoming state election and advocate for voluntary assisted dying (My GC).

QLD: Catholic bishops across the state announced a ‘Dying Peacefully — No Euthanasia Sunday’ event to reaffirm the church’s opposition to legalised voluntary assisted dying, with Townsville Bishop Tim Harris saying ”Christians should reject a culture of death and embrace life to the very end” (QT).

TAS: A new group of lay Catholics are calling on Catholic Church to become more collaborative, accountable and transparent to help counter the rapid decline in mass attendance numbers (The Advocate).

VIC: The Australian Christian Lobby has congratulated 300 church leaders for making a joint effort to ask Premier Daniel Andrews to allow churches to open for indoor worship (ACL).

WA: Former tennis champion and outspoken Christian pastor Margaret Court will lodge an equal opportunities complaint against the the state government after the state's lotteries commission refused to fund her charity because of her "biblical views on same-sex marriage" (SMH).

Commentary and Analysis

Two years after Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised to urgently protect LGBT students in religious schools against discrimination following a public outcry, his government has failed to act, writes Alastair Lawrie.

When you have a go in Australia, you get a go...especially if you’re a Hillsong mate of the Prime Minister, writes Matt Reddin (The Big Smoke).

Professor Michael Quinland writes that the latest allegations of bribery claims in rellation to the Pell sexual abuse case cannot be ignored (Catholic Weekly).

Failure of the proposed voluntary assisted dying bill to pass the committed stage in Tasmania’s Legislative Council would be a “devastating” blow, write Labor health spokesperson Sarah Lovell and colleague Dr Bastian Seidel (The Mercury).

Hobart surgeon Alan R. Scott, who is a member of Doctors for Assisted Dying Choice, writes there is no evidence that in a jurisdiction where VAD exists experiences any weakening of belief in the medical system (The Mercury).

There’s a good reason why assisted dying opponents don’t mention Switzerland when warning about ‘suicide contagion’, writes Neil Francis (RSA).

Professor Patrick Parkinson writes that Christians need to start accepting their declining power to influence society (Eternity News).

As the Labour Party in the United Kingdom moves to abolish private schools, Paul Kidson discusses why any similar push in Australia would face significantly greater challenges (The Conversation).

Catholic priest Eric Hodgens writes that the post-pandemic opening of church gatherings won’t be usual for parishes which are already facing decline (John Menadue blog).

That's it for another week!

Until next time, please follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

Don't forget to add your voice to the #DontDivideUs campaign against the Religious Discrimination Bill.

And if you are able, please consider making a small monthly contribution to the NSL to help us raise the secular profile in Australia. Every dollar helps!