Weekend Wrap for 15 March 2020

The potential for religious beliefs and practices to pose severe risks to public health during the current pandemic are in the spotlight. This is the Weekend Wrap, bringing you the news and views of concern to secular 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

The Prime Minister has been accused of deliberately delaying the ban on large ‘non-essential’ public gatherings until thousands of people could join a Hillsong conference in Sydney (Daily Mail).

A decision by the Greek Orthodox Church to continue allowing its congregations to sip wine from the same spoon during mass because "the holy cup cannot carry disease" will put lives at risk during the coronavirus outbreak, says the Australian Medical Association (ABC).

Margaret Court’s Victory Life Church in Perth has told members of its congregation that they are immune from coronavirus because they are protected by “the blood of Jesus” (News).

Two of Australia’s biggest law firms have urged the Morrison government to scrap the ‘Folau clause’ from the Religious Discrimination Bill, saying employers need the ability to sack employees who say offensive things (The Australian).

Attorney-General Christian Porter is “carefully considering” a plea from the Islamic community for greater protections in the Religious Discrimination Bill (The Age).

The Attorney-General’s Department has released a selection of the submissions to the second draft of Religious Discrimination Bill (Star Obverser).

LGBTQ activist Rodney Croome has slammed the Morrison government for delaying the reporting date of the inquiry into religious schools being able to expel LGBTIQ students or refuse enrolment from rainbow families (just.equal).

The AFL’s multicultural ambassadors have supported the league’s stance in opposition to the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill, saying it is imperative to support an inclusive environment for all (The Age).

In the wake of the ‘Ballarat case’, where a teacher was awarded a payout after claiming she had been forced out of her job because of her support for same-sex marriage, Christian Schools Australia has said that it doesn’t want “people in our schools teaching what they don’t believe” (Eternity News).

A study of religious literacy among teenagers has found that a slim majority do not identify with a religion and those who receive a general education about religions and spirituality are more accepting of others’ beliefs (SMH).

At the High Court, George Pell's lawyers have argued that jurors who convicted the cardinal of child sexual abuse were wrong to reject arguments from his defence about the improbability of the offending occurring (The Guardian).

Around the Country

QLD: Dying with Dignity and other advocacy groups who are pushing for the Palaszczuk government to introduce voluntary assisted dying laws have cancelled plans to hold a public rally due to the coronavirus outbreak.

VIC: Legal advice provided to the City of Melbourne suggested that the council did not have the power to ensure compliance by churches to new mandatory reporting laws in the state (Herald Sun, paywalled).

QLD: A child sex abuse victim who was publically blamed by former governor-general Peter Hollingworth for the priest sexually exploiting her says the Anglican Church continually fobbed her off before offering a payout for silence (ABC).

WA: Broome Catholic Bishop Christopher Saunders has stepped down amid sexual abuse allegations (7 News).

WA: A man who has been awarded a record $1.3 million in damages for the abuse he suffered as a boy in a Christian Brothers’ orphanage has urged other victims to take action (ABC).

Commentary and Analysis

Instead of the ‘divisive’ Religious Discrimination Bill, Dr Philip Freier, Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia and Archbishop of Melbourne, writes that what is needed is a Bill of Rights that doesn’t privilege one group above others (The Age).

LGBTIQ advocate Rodney Croome writes that it’s now time for Tasmanians to defend the state’s inclusive and equitable anti-discrimination laws against the attack of the Morrison government’s Religious Freedom Bill (The Mercury).

The coronavirus pandemic highlights how, under the proposed religious freedom laws, Australians would be more vulnerable, as religious-based hospitals would be staffed not by the best candidates but by people who have passed a religious test, writes Alastair Lawrie.

This editorial argues that the majority of Australians are looking to embrace diversity and inclusiveness, instead of entrenching divisions under the flawed Religious Discrimination Bill (SMH).

Michael Moore worries that the Morrison government will attempt to slip the Religious Discrimination Bill through as the media focus shifts to the coronavirus pandemic (City News).

Max Opray writes on how public money is contributing to the “arm’s race” playing out among Australia’s top private schools as billions of dollars are being spent to upgrade facilities (The Saturday Paper).

The new funding model entrenches the belief that private schools are a national priority to be funded by the federal government while it fails to address the inequality between private and public schools, write Academics Jessica Gerrard and Helen Proctor (The Conversation).

The Prime Minister’s lack of accountability and transparency in the handling of his White House invitation to Hillsong’s Brian Houston, plus an array of other issues, damages trust in our politicians and respect for our institutions, writes Jacqueline Maley (SMH).

David Marr writes on why those who have followed the case of George Pell all the way to the High Court must face the possibility that the cardinal is about to be acquitted (The Guardian).

Amber Schultz examines how, within the Catholic Church, mechanisms remain in place to keep the church protected and the vulnerable silent (Crikey).

That's it for another week!

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