Weekend Wrap for 14 December 2019

An updated draft of the government’s religious freedom bill is met by waves of criticism. This is the latest wrap of news and views concerning secular society from around Australia.

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

In an effort to win over faith leaders, the Morrison government announced 11 changes to its controversial religious discrimination bill, including provisions allowing for hospitals and aged-care providers to hire and fire based on religion (ABC).

Pressure from the Australian Medical Association resulted in the Morrison government narrowing the "conscientious objection" provision in the draft bill, with it now applying to fewer types of health workers and being limited to objections on procedures (The Age).

The St Vincent de Paul Society has asked the Morrison government not to continue using it in promoting the new draft bill that allows ‘public benevolent institutions’ such as St Vinnies to discriminate based on religion (The Guardian).

Labor is calling on the Morrison government to make publicly available the submissions to the original draft of the religious discrimination bill, with only 100 submissions of 6,000 having so far been released by the Attorney-General (Out in Perth).

President of the Rationalist Society of Australia Meredith Doig has warned that the religious discrimination bill risks creating divisions in Australian society akin to the Protestant-Catholic divide of last century (ABC).

Equality Australia has slammed the “double standard” that would exist in employment and education settings, and in the provision of goods and services, arguing that the privileges for religious institutions would be to the detriment of non-religious Australians and others (Star Observer).

Rights campaigner Rodney Croome, of just.equal, has warned that Australian society would be “moving into new territory” as the Morrison government’s religious freedom provisions would set new precedents for businesses to discriminate (Out in Perth).

Reverend Peter Grayson-Weeks, of the Uniting Church LGBTIQ group Uniting Network, has criticised the Morrison government’s religious freedom proposals as an effort to “use the taxpayer to support the establishment of a system of apartheid in Australia” (Out in Perth).

Justice Peter McClellan, who headed the royal commission into child sex abuse, has condemned Catholic leaders for considering the sexual assault of children as a “moral failure” instead of a crime (InDaily).

In an exclusive interview with a Christian media outlet, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has said Labor would “wait and see” what the government came up with before announcing its position and noted a positive religious right “might be something that emerges from this process” (Eternity News).

The Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW has agreed to hear a complaint against former rugby player Israel Folau, who has been accused of “homosexuality vilification” for expressing his religious views on same-sex marriage (News).

Government minister Stuart Robert has defended himself after being photographed baptising tourists in the Jordan River (Daily Mail).

Scott Morrison’s spiritual mentor Brian Houston has prayed for President Donald Trump on an official visit to the White House (The Guardian).

Around the Country

WA: Emotional scenes engulfed parliament as the voluntary assisted dying legislation (VAD) passed its final hurdle to becoming law (ABC).

WA: The Australian Christan Lobby has denounced the passing of VAD laws by the parliament, labelling them as “the most dangerous and unsafe in the world” as they carried fewer protections than in Victoria and elsewhere (Eternity News).

WA: In response to the passing of VAD laws, Perth’s Catholic Archdiocese rejected “the deliberate ending of a person’s life” but said it looked forward to collaborating with the government to ensure that the church’s contribution could “continue without compromising the fundamental precepts which underpin all that Catholic agencies offer” (Catholic Leader).

TAS: Advocates for VAD in Tasmania have been buoyed by the outcome in Western Australia, with Dying with Dignity Tasmania declaring it would launch a new campaign in the new year (The Advocate).

Commentary and Analysis

Wendy Squires argues that what Australians really need is freedom from religion as far-Right religious conservatives seek to inflict their beliefs on the population (WA Today).

‘God Forbid’ explores how religion dominated headlines in 2019 and looks set to do so again in 2020 (ABC).

Paul Karp explores what has changed in the second iteration of the Morrison government’s religious discrimination bill (The Guardian).

The release of an updated draft religious discrimination bill at a time when the nation was dealing with natural disasters could prove a costly moment of poor judgment by the Prime Minister, writes Andy Marks, assistant vice-chancellor at Western Sydney University (The Age).

While the Morrison government refuses to accept and address climate change and the ramifications of it, even when faced with scientific proof, it urgently addresses an issue of little consequence propped up by a belief not supported by any scientific evidence, writes Noely Neate (Independent Australia).

In this editorial, The Australian “hopes” that the spirit of the new religious discrimination laws will promote tolerance rather than introduce a new arena for division.

Rick Morton writes of Hillsong’s expansion into the US under Brian Houston as a victim of Frank Houston struggles to cover his cancer treatment (The Saturday Paper).

John Steenhof, head of the Human Rights Law Alliance (which is aligned with the Australian Christian Lobby) presents some example cases in which he claims Christians got a raw deal (Eternity News).

That's it for another week!

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