Weekend Wrap for 14 September 2019

In today's secular Weekend Wrap, catch up on the news and views regarding the religious discrimination bill, the push by states to extend mandatory reporting laws, plus other issues in the secular space. Here are some key articles from the past week.

Don’t forget that the Weekend Wrap, which aims to help secular-minded Australians keep abreast of news, is also published on our Facebook page!

The National View

In what looks to be a new test case for faith-based protections in schools, a Victorian teacher who supports same-sex marriage is taking legal action against a Christian college for alleged discrimination (The Australian).

Senator Jackie Lambie has questioned the need for the religious discrimination bill, saying Tasmanians were happy with their state’s existing protections and had “more important things to talk about” (The Guardian).

Labor frontbencher Michelle Rowland – who is Catholic – is urging the party to engage with religious voters, saying “there was clearly an issue with Labor and people of faith at the last election” (The Age).

Big businesses are warning that the proposed religious discrimination laws will give employees too much latitude to use social media to breach company policies, with the Australian Industry Group warning of “significant impacts” for employers (AFR).

Equality advocates have voiced their concerns that conscientious objection provisions in the draft religious discrimination laws will allow health practitioners to refuse services to patients based on sexuality or gender (SMH).

Activist group Equality Australia has spearheaded the collection of more than 14,000 signatures against the religious discrimination bill (Star Observer).

The chair of the Freedom for Faith think tank, Professor Patrick Parkinson, has said schools and non-religious schools should have a right to not accept a ‘new’ gender identity of a student (SMH).

Around the Country

TAS: The state’s Attorney-General says there is now no excuse for any person or institution failing to report the abuse of children, especially “institutions who have been named by the royal commission as failing to prevent child abuse in the past”, after the state parliament passed mandatory reporting laws (Examiner).

TAS: Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous has said Catholic priests would not adhere to the state’s new mandatory reporting laws that would force them to break the seal of confession (ABC).

VIC: The government proclaimed the "end to special treatment" for churches as the Victorian parliament passed mandatory reporting laws requiring religious ministers to notify state authorities of suspected child abuse or face jail (9 News).

NSW: Pro-choice and anti-abortion campaigners have been protesting in Sydney today, as the bill to decriminalise abortion in the state is set to be debated in the parliament’s upper house (SBS).

NSW: A cross-party group of MPs will put forward 10 amendments to the abortion decriminalisation bill in the parliament's upper house, with sponsors of the bill saying they are prepared to accept “sensible” amendments (SMH).

WA: Andrew Denton’s pro-euthanasia organisation Go Gentle Australia has rejected claims it has told members of parliament to block any amendment put forward on the voluntary assisted dying bill (WAToday).

Commentary and Analysis

In questioning why religious instruction is still taught in state schools in Queensland, Leisa Scott shares the perspectives of concerned parents such as Alison Courtice from Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools (Courier-Mail).

Whistleblower and former police detective Peter Fox recalls his investigations into clergy abuse and the reluctance he encountered among sections of the police force to look into the Catholic Church (ABC).

Given the substantial religious discrimination protections that already exist in state laws, the campaign for greater religious freedoms stands on a remarkably thin foundation, writes former Liberty Victoria president Spencer Zifcak (John Menadue blog).

This ABC Fact Check considers the claim by Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman that Australians lack protections against religious discrimination (ABC).

If new religious discrimination laws strengthen conscientious objection protections for health practitioners, women may have to consult with multiple services before finding a doctor willing to perform an abortion, write Elizabeth Shi and Ariella Gordon (The Conversation).

Renae Barker and Robyn Olive Carroll explain how the draft religious discrimination bill provides a new avenue for a person seeking an apology for religious discrimination (The Conversation).

That's it for another week!

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