Weekend Wrap for 15 November 2020

Breakthroughs on abortion law reform in South Australia and voluntary assisted dying in Tasmania headline the new edition of the Weekend Wrap. Stay informed of news and views in the secular space from the past week!

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!

At the National Level

Some of the most trenchant opponents of same-sex marriage were "at the same time enthusiastic practitioners of traditional adultery," former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said in a 4 Corners exposé of sex scandals involving government ministers who ostensibly stood for 'family values' (ABC).

Faith leaders have welcomed news that a promising COVID-19 vaccine secured by the Australian government is free from any cell-lines derived from an aborted baby, with Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher saying it “demonstrates that good science and sound ethics can go hand in hand” (Catholic Weekly).

The Anglican Church’s highest ecclesiastical court, the Appellate Tribunal, has voted in favour of allowing dioceses to bless same-sex marriages (ABC).

Liberal Senator Dean Smith, who introduced the same-sex marriage bill, has staved off efforts by a “powerful Christian lobby” to have him demoted to an unwinnable position on the party's Senate ticket for the next federal election (Out in Perth).

Victoria's anti-corruption watchdog has announced that it will not be investigating claims that more than $1 million was wired from the Vatican to Australia to interfere in Cardinal George Pell's trial (ABC).

Around the Country

TAS: In this radio interview, Independent MLC Mike Gaffney says he felt “relieved and excited” following the unanimous passing of his voluntary assisted dying bill through the upper house of parliament (ABC).

TAS: After voluntary assisted dying legislation was passed by the state’s upper house, Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein announced that the University of Tasmania would examine the bill and compare it to other assisted dying laws, including in Victoria and Western Australia (Canberra Times).

TAS: Opponents of the voluntary assisted dying legislation are pushing for a public inquiry into the bill and are calling for full exemptions for faith-based hospitals and aged-care homes (The Australian, paywalled).

TAS: Independent MLC Mike Gaffney predicts there “would be outrage” in the community if the lower house of parliament now rejects his voluntary assisted dying bill (Tasmania Talks, see ‘Wed 1 Nov’).

TAS: Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff has indicated his switch to supporting the voluntary assisted dying bill, saying that “the thoroughness in which it had been consulted” gives him comfort (ABC iView).

TAS: In this radio interview, voluntary assisted dying campaigners Jacqui and Natalie Gray reflect on the journey of the bill so far and how they “witnessed history” in Tasmania’s parliament (ABC).

TAS: The Australian Christian Lobby labelled the passing of the voluntary assisted dying bill in the upper house as “a sad day”, saying it was done so “without proper thought or scrutiny” (ACL).

ACT: Assisted dying advocates have branded the federal blocking of the territories from introducing such laws as "patently unfair", as a new push begins in the Australian Capital Territory through the newly created ministerial position of Human Rights Minister (ABC).

QLD: The Australian Medical Association Queensland is urging the returned Labor government to invest more money in palliative care as it moves to introduce voluntary assisted dying legislation (Brisbane Times).

QLD: The Australian Christian Lobby has called on the Palaszczuk government to heed the advice of the Australian Medical Association Queensland and focus on palliative care instead of “rushing to introduce assisted suicide” (ACL).

NSW: An online forum about the Dying with Dignity campaign for voluntary assisted dying in the state is being held on December 2 (Port News).

SA: South Australia has passed legislation to establish 150-metre safe access zones around abortion clinics, ensuring that patients will no longer have to run a gauntlet of abuse and harassment (SBS).

SA: Labor MP Nat Cook, who moved the safe access zones bill in the lower house, shared a social media post highlighting some of the religious-based abuse that she has been receiving.

SA: The Australian Christian Lobby applauded Liberal Senator Alex Antic for criticising the state’s Attorney General Vickie Chapman for not making clear her position on abortion law reform before the previous state election (ACL).

SA: The Australian Christian Lobby has urged Attorney General Vickie Chapman to “tell the truth” on the question of whether the abortion decriminalisation bill, which is still before parliament, will allow for termination of a pregnancy up to birth (ACL).

NSW: Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher told a parliamentary committee that loopholes allowing discrimination against Christians must be closed and warned that employers should not be able to “regard themselves as owning the souls of employees” to limit religious expression (Catholic Weekly).

VIC: The Victorian government is consulting survivors of gay conversion and also religious organisations as it prepares legislation to outlaw the practice (ABC).

QLD: Some Catholics have blamed hail storms on the Noosa Temple of Satan’s black mass and claimed that the “demonic act was sanctioned by the Australian government” (The Australia).

Commentary and Analysis

In an open letter to Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein, Michael Kellahan, the Executive Director of the Freedom for Faith think tank, expresses “grave concerns” about the lack of protection for freedom of belief in the voluntary assisted dying bill and accuses Mike Gaffney of failing to understand the secular nature of Australia (Eternity News).

Introducing voluntary assisted dying laws is one of the very few promises of a “modest legislative agenda” for the re-elected Palaszczuk government, writes Peter McCutcheon (ABC).

In an opinion piece in support of voluntary assisted dying laws, Marshall Perron, former Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, writes that intimidation by religious political groups towards politicians no longer works and is “increasingly likely to boomerang” (The Advocate).

In outlining cases from The Netherlands and Belgium as “strong evidence” for how legalising voluntary assisted dying (VAD) becomes a ‘slippery slope’, the Australian Christian Lobby’s Martyn Iles writes that the passing of VAD in Tasmania is not something to celebrate (ACL).

Catherine Heuzenroeder takes a look at the proposed legislation in South Australia to move abortion from being criminal legislation to being treated as a health issue (ABC).

Naomi Neilson surveys some of the key arguments against the proposed religious discrimination bills in New South Wales and at the federal level (Lawyer’s Weekly).

Phillip Jensen, a former Anglican Dean of Sydney, writes that the Australian Census gets the religion question wrong in lumping all those who describe themselves as having ‘no religion’ together, while differentiating Christians down to denominations that make up less than one per cent of the population (ABC).

Following the introduction of laws to ban gay conversion practices in Queensland and the ACT, many Victorians are now hopeful of a government announcement on the issue by the end of the year, writes Jessi Lewis (Star Observer).

Julia Baird writes that the decision by the Anglican Church’s Appellate Tribunal to allow for the blessing of same-sex marriages provides some hope for LGBTQI members of the church (The Age).

John Sandeman reviews the decision of the Anglican Church’s top legal body on blessing same-sex marriages and what it means for dioceses across the country (Eternity News).

Samuel Mazur analyses how Liberal candidates who espouse extreme religious views on social media are continuing to ‘slip through the net’ of the party's selection processes (Tasmania Times).

The Australian Christian Lobby’s Wendy Francis hits out at an Adelaide researcher who claimed that the majority of abortions after 23 weeks gestation are due to foetal abnormalities or the mother having experienced sexual abuse, abusive relationships, addiction or homelessness (ACL).

That's it for another week!

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