Weekend Wrap for 15 February 2020

We lead the new edition of the Weekend Wrap with news of a split among those who have been pushing the divisive ‘religious freedom’ agenda. Through the Wrap, we aim to help you stay up to date with issues regarding the separation of church and state across Australia. (And please let us know if we’ve missed anything!)

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

Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, a long-time champion for the expansion of positive religious rights, has rejected the government’s current draft Religious Discrimination Bill as "flawed" and argued instead for a consolidation of discrimination law (SMH).

Liberal politicians Senator James Paterson and Tim Wilson MP have criticised Senator Fierravanti-Wells' proposal, saying the government should continue on its current path of finalising the Religious Discrimination Bill (The Guardian).

Senator Amanda Stoker, who chairs the Senate committee that will examine the Religious Discrimination Bill when it arrives in the Senate, has opposed her colleague’s call to scrap the proposed legislation, arguing that the government “should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good" (The Age).

National sporting codes, including the AFL, Cricket Australia, Football Federation Australia, NRL, Netball Australia, Tennis Australia and Rugby Australia, have raised concerns about the ‘Israel Folau’ clause (Daily Telegraph, paywalled).

Enactment of the religious discrimination laws would be a major setback for women, say the Australian Women Lawyers group, whose concerns include religious belief being used as a weapon against women in workplaces (Lawyers Weekly).

The Women’s Electoral Lobby has described the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill as "cruel legislation" that fundamentally undermines advances made by Australian women (Women’s Electoral Lobby).

Mental Health Australia has called on the Morrison government to discontinue its plans to introduce the Religious Discrimination Bill, arguing that no Australian should face discrimination as a result of any new laws (Mental Health Australia).

An anti-Islam group is deregistering itself because of concerns it will become an “an easy target for hostile litigation" if federal religious discrimination laws come into effect (The Age).

Around the Country

VIC: Faith-based service providers in the state have publicly condemned the Morrison government’s proposed religious discrimination laws, saying the divisive conversation about empowering people of faith to discriminate against others “is not in the national interest” (Q News).

NSW: The Uniting Church has called for a renewed, nuanced public discussion about voluntary assisted dying to avoid repeating last year's divisive debate over abortion (SMH).

TAS: A long-time euthanasia advocate wants to see Tasmania become a ‘trendsetter’ by including advanced care directives in any new voluntary assisted dying legislation that comes before the state parliament (The Advocate).

TAS: A political scientist has applauded the campaign by an independent member of parliament to introduce voluntary assisted dying for showing how independents can play an important role in bringing about change “that the community wants” (The Advocate).

WA: The state government is drafting legislation to establish 24-hour safe zones around abortion clinics (Perth Now).

Commentary and Analysis

By allowing a person to actively discriminate on the basis of their religious beliefs, the draft Religious Discrimination Bill turns discrimination protection on its head, writes law professor Simon Rice (The Conversation).

Tyler Jenke takes a look at the development of the Religious Discrimination Bill and why, instead of protecting people, it actually threatens more widespread discrimination (Rolling Stone).

Van Badham writes that the Religious Discrimination Bill has less to do with religion and more to do with conservatives trying to “snatch by stealth political victories they have comprehensively, resoundingly, publicly lost” The Guardian).

Malcolm Turnbull’s sop to the losers of the same-sex marriage plebiscite may have been intended to merely confirm the already extensive privileges that the faithful enjoy, but now the proposed legislation has embroiled us in a new campaign in the ongoing culture wars, writes Mungo MacCallum (John Menedue blog).

Phrases like ‘traditional families’ and ‘Christian values’ are used us weapons to keep LGBTIQ people in their place, writes Neve Mahoney (Eureka Street).

That's it for another week!

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