Weekend Wrap for 13 December 2020

The Victorian government defies fierce pressure from religious groups to progress legislation outlawing gay conversion practices. Catch up on that story and more in the new Weekend Wrap of secular news 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!

At the National Level

Faith leaders have urged Scott Morrison to prioritise the implementation of a Religious Discrimination Act next year, saying that parliament should get to work on the legislation when it returns from the summer break in February (The Australian).

Rosalind Croucher, president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, believes Australians would be better served through new human rights legislation with mechanisms to adjudicate conflicts involving religion rather than the Morrison government's Religious Discrimination Bill (Sight Magazine).

The doctor who was suspended from medical practice for sharing his Christian-based beliefs online has told an interview that in more than 15 years of practising medicine he had never behaved in a rude or discriminatory way towards LGBTIQ patients (Caldron Pool).

Australian Capital Territory Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne has launched an online petition calling for the removal of federal laws that prevent the nation’s territories from introducing voluntary assisted dying laws (NT News, paywalled). Sign the petition here.

Sydney Anglican Bishop Michael Stead – a leading candidate to succeed Glenn Davies as archbishop next year – said he feared the decision to bless same-sex marriages had put the Anglican Church on “a trajectory towards disintegration" (SMH).

In a public statement in response to Diocese of Wangaratta’s blessing of same-sex marriages, Sydney’s Anglican bishops warned that the action, in being taken prior to the 2021 General Synod, created “a serious breach in our national Church life” (Sydney Anglicans).

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge has supported an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling for urgent action on climate change, saying “climate change in the Pacific is a matter of life and death” (Catholic Leader).

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher has criticised the Morrison government for purchasing an additional 20 million doses of the “ethically-troubling” AstaZeneca vaccine following the abandonment of the University of Queensland’s COVID-19 vaccine project (Catholic Weekly).

Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne addressed the Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s annual conference, saying that Australia had “steadfastly” and “resolutely” objected to resolutions targeting Israel during two years on the United Human Rights Council (Australian Jewish News).

In a video message, Prime Minister Scott Morrison wished Jewish people “a light-filled Chanukah" (Australian Jewish News).

In paying tribute to the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a quote from the rabbi about Moses and the need to “choose life” had inspired him through a challenging 2020 (Australian Jewish News).

Anthony Albanese delivered a speech as the first major party leader to participate in a Menorah lighting event, attended by many other members of parliament, to mark Chanukah at Parliament House (JWire).

The Australian Christian Lobby has thanked a group of senators for their efforts in urging state and territory governments to allow churches to host more people for Christmas gatherings.

Around the Country

VIC: The Andrews government has passed legislation banning gay conversion practices through the lower house of the state parliament, with the bill to enter the upper house when parliament resumes in the new year (Star Observer).

VIC: In a speech on the gay conversion bill, Premier Dan Andrews said that Victoria “is a secular state” that would not tolerant “the worst form of bigoted quackery imaginable” (The Age).

VIC: The state’s Liberal Party called on the Andrews government to delay the vote on the bill banning gay conversion practices so more time could be spent consulting with religious communities (Star Observer).

VIC: The Australian Christian Lobby criticised the Victorian Liberal Party for “running scared on basic liberal values” and for not standing up against the Andrews government on the gay conversion issue.

VIC: In a public statement following the passing of the bill to outlaw gay conversion practices, Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli attacked the legislation for “targetting prayer” and “imposing silence” on people of faith.

NSW: Independent MP Alex Greenwich is drafting a voluntary assisted dying bill that he hopes to introduce into the state parliament by the middle of next year (SMH).

TAS: Independent MLC Mike Gaffney is not concerned that a University of Tasmania review of his voluntary assisted dying legislation will have a detrimental effect on the bill’s passage through parliament, saying he thinks it will likely suggest “the legislation is sound” (Tasmania Talks, listen from 9.16).

TAS: Dying With Dignity Tasmania has made a scathing assessment of a speech by Braddon Liberal MP Felix Ellis on the issue of voluntary assisted dying, saying that the young MP “approached the debate with a closed mind and strong bias against the legislation" (The Advocate).

QLD: The Uniting Church, which controls two of Brisbane’s top private hospitals, has warned the Queensland Law Reform Commission against any expansion of time frames in which terminally ill Queenslanders could access voluntary assisted dying under proposed laws (The Australian).

QLD: Voluntary assisted dying advocate Everald Compton has questioned the Palaszczuk government’s fast-tracking of proposed legislation on the issue, warning that the “rush” could undermine public confidence in the future law (The Australian).

QLD: The leader of anti-choice group Cherish Life says it plans to step up its campaign efforts at the national level (Catholic Leader).

WA: LGBTI advocates are calling on the state Labor government to follow the lead of South Australia’s Liberal government and make a move to scrap discrimination exemptions provided to religious institutions such as schools (Out in Perth).

QLD: Wendy Francis, of the Australian Christian Lobby, has launched a petition on the Queensland parliament website requesting the parliament to maintain the practice of reciting Christian prayers at the opening of parliament each day.

WA: Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas has welcomed the return of the Christmas Nativity event to “give anyone and everyone a chance to experience the joy that Christmas brings”.

Commentary and Analysis

Rob Harris writes of the role Labor Senator and devout Catholic Deborah O'Neill is playing in leading the push to increase the party’s appeal in religious communities (SMH).

In this editorial, The Age urges the Andrews government to address the concerns of faith leaders so to strengthen the legislation that bans gay conversion practices.

Peter FitzSimons pleads with people who hold religious beliefs against voluntary assisted dying to leave the rest of us alone and let us be free to choose our own deaths in the case of a terminal illness (SMH).

Martyn Iles, of the Australian Christian Lobby, writes that there is a “yawning gap” between Daniel Andrews’ “extreme rhetoric” and the actual content of the Victorian government’s legislation on gay conversion practices.

John Sandeman, of Eternity News, canvasses the broad range of faith-based views on the Victorian government’s gay conversion bill.

As Victorian premier Dan Andrews stands his ground on progressive issues and takes on the Catholic Church, his popularity just keeps on growing, writes Georgia Wilkins (Crikey).

Nathan Despott and Chris Csabs, who are advocates for gay conversion survivors, write that the Victorian legislation is welcomed and “common sense” (The Age).

Jamie Walker argues that Premier Palaszczuk’s actions in making an election promise to fast-track voluntary assisted dying laws have shifted debate on the issue from finding a way for people to embrace it to mandating that it should be made law of the land (The Australian).

Labor has to embrace people of faith and show that it is not “a hostile, anti-religious secular, disdainful force” to return to the party’s traditions and build coalitions that can win federal elections, writes Michael Easson (John Menadue blog).

Christopher Brohier, of the Australian Christian Lobby, praises the thousands of supporters who made phone calls and wrote letters to their MPs to voice their opposition to the abortion bills in South Australia.

That's it for another week!

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