Faith groups continue to grapple with the fallout of Victoria’s new laws on gay conversion practices, as legislators in other states look to re-ignite efforts for similar reforms. That and more in the latest Weekend Wrap of secular news and views.
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At the National Level
Major churches are at odds with Australia’s health authorities over the AstraZeneca vaccine, with Catholic and Anglican leaders arguing that people with concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine should be entitled to request a different jab (The Age).
The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils has ruled that the medical professional has “made a compelling case for vaccination” and urged the Muslim community not to promote or disseminate conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccines.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton overruled his department's merit-based recommendations on grant funding in the Safer Communities program to shift money to lower-ranked projects at a church within his electorate and at the St Vincent de Paul Society (ABC).
Traditional Western values, including rule of law, justice, equality, freedom of religion and freedom of expression, should be the guiding theme of the national school curriculum, according to recommendations in a new report by the Centre for Independent Studies (The Age).
Some of Australia’s leading media companies have offered “sincere, unqualified” apologies after pleading guilty to contempt of court over their reporting of Cardinal George Pell’s conviction on child sexual abuse charges (The Guardian).
Around the Country
VIC: The Presbyterian Church is urging its congregations to defy the state’s recently-passed laws banning gay conversion practices, saying it is “our task to keep on keeping on, to proclaim and to live out so far as we can the gospel of Christ” (Eternity News).
VIC: Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli has lamented the state government’s “wall of silence” toward faith leaders in the passing of new laws to outlaw gay conversion practices, with the result putting Victoria in “strange new territory in which certain prayers, offered under particular conditions, could turn a parent or counsellor into a criminal” (Catholic Weekly).
NSW: A group of cross-party parliamentarians are reviewing Victoria’s new gay conversion laws with the view to introducing similar reforms in New South Wales to “protect LGBTQI+ people …from the trauma and torment of conversion therapy” (Star Observer).
WA: The Australian Christian Lobby’s state director Peter Abetz is warning Christians that the McGowan government is considering introducing legislation to ban gay conversion practices (Out in Perth).
VIC: In response to a push by some councillors at the Mornington Peninsula Council to re-impose prayer at the opening of official meetings, National Secular Lobby president Peter Monk said no councillor should be forced to participate in religious ceremonies in the workplace (Herald Sun, paywalled).
WA: Education Minister Sue Ellery has refused to intervene to stop an ultra-conservative evangelical church that denounces homosexuality and same-sex marriage from preaching in public school facilities (The West).
TAS: In this radio interview, Independent MLC Mike Gaffney says he expects a quick resolution to his voluntary assisted dying bill when debate re-starts in early March, given the pending submission of a report on the bill and the Premier’s promise to prioritise the issue (7AD).
SA: Some regional supporters of the state’s proposed voluntary assisted dying laws are concerned that people living outside the major cities could face difficulties in accessing the end-of-life option (ABC).
SA: In a threat directed at members of parliament in marginal seats, the Australian Christian Lobby has warned that those who vote for the Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020 would be “in danger of losing their seats” (ACL).
VIC: At a time when the Catholic Church is facing a wave of compensation claims from victims of sexual abuse, the Archdiocese of Melbourne has paid more than $12 million for a heritage-listed building in East Melbourne (The Age).
Commentary and Analysis
Martyn Iles, of the Australian Christian Lobby, writes that the Victorian law banning gay conversion practices is “a direct attack on the truth of creation ... on the Creator ... [and] on God’s people who want to live by standards of righteousness”.
While the usual suspects of the religious right opposed Victoria’s efforts to criminalise gay conversion practices, counselling psychologist Stuart Edser writes that many people of faith did not support the opponents of the laws and their “misinformation” campaigns (Independent Australia).
Dr Michael Leahy, a former Catholic priest, writes that bishops “disingenuously” claimed that Victoria’s Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill legislated for what prayers would be legal and what prayers would not be (John Menadue blog).
In highlighting the Andrews government’s approach towards issues such as Margaret Court’s Australian Day award, the COVID-19 restrictions on religious activities and the outlawing of gay conversion practices, Morgan Begg argues that the Victorian Labor Party is “the enemy of people of faith” (The Spectator).
Being four years since the Western Australia Labor Party was elected to government promising that it would “work towards” a ban on gay conversion practices, Greens MLC Alison Xamon writes that now is the time for the McGowan government to act (Out in Perth).
Independent MLC Mike Gaffney writes that now is the time for Tasmanians to be sharing their viewpoint on voluntary assisted dying with their local members of parliament to “ensure there is no doubt in their minds regarding the will of the electorate” (The Advocate).