Weekend Wrap for 18 January 2020

The Weekend Wrap returns for the first edition of 2020, providing links to news and views concerning a range of issues from the past few weeks that challenge the separation of church and state.

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 nation’s peak legal body, Law Council of Australia, has condemned the Morrison government’s revised religious discrimination bill, describing it as “a deeply flawed piece of legislation” that sought to put freedom of religious expression ahead of other human rights (The Austtralian).

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has called for the Religious Discrimination Bill to enhance the power of religious hospitals, age-care homes and housing providers to preference people of their own faith (Brisbane Times).

Labor has invited LGBTIQ leaders to a consultation on the draft Religious Discrimination Bill, with Rodney Croome saying he will urge Anthony Albanese to “oppose the Bill outright...and as soon as possible” (OutInPerth).

Rallies against the draft Religious Discrimination Bill are planned for capitals around the nation (Q News).

The group Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) launched a new website to campaign against the Religious Discrimination Bill and began sending emails, featuring personal stories of people who would be affected, to politicians (Star Observer).

Father Peter MacLeod-Miller has suggested that it might be time for the Anglican Church to split, as debates on issues such as the Religious Discrimination Bill and same-sex marriage divide the church (ABC).

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has expressed its disappointment that the second exposure draft of the bill retained provisions allowing ‘statements of belief’ to override all existing anti-discrimination laws (Lawyers Weekly).

The extremist Christian Rise Up Australia party has been deregistered, with its leader saying that the election of Prime Minister Scott Morrison had rendered the party redundant (The Age).

In a social media post, former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce urged Australians to respect God, otherwise “we’re going to get nailed” (The Guardian).

The Australian Christian Lobby launched a fundraiser to make an advertising campaign in support of tennis great Margaret Court, claiming she was “being silenced” (The Australian).

Around the Country

NSW: Victorian MP Fiona Patten has expanded her Reason Party into New South Wales after members of the Voluntary Euthanasia Party voted to join forces with Reason to provide a broader platform "based on evidence and common sense" (SMH).

QLD: Legislation that compelled priests to disclose to authorities information about child abuse, including information gained through confession, would be unworkable and would not make children safer, Catholic Archbishop Mark Coleridge has argued (The Australian).

QLD: Transport Minister Mark Bailey condemned Archbishop Coleridge’s comments and said he was “deeply disturbed” that the Catholic Church would continue to demand exemptions for priests from mandatory reporting measures (Brisbane Times).

QLD: A man who was allegedly sexually abused by a paedophile priest when he was an alter boy believes he could have been spared if mandatory reporting laws had required religious institutions to report crimes admitted in confession (ABC).

TAS: Religious bodies have expressed their approval for the opportunity to only employ workers aligned with their faith (The Advocate).

WA: An Uber driver allegedly refused to serve passengers who were carrying a Christmas ham because, as a Muslim, the ham was against his religious sensibilities (Perth Now).

NSW: Coalition MP Trevor Khan is leading a cross-party effort to have voluntary assisted dying legislation introduced in the state (Daily Telegraph).

VIC: About five applications from terminally ill people seeking permits to die are being lodged each week under the state's voluntary assisted dying laws, introduced six months ago (SMH).

TAS: Independent MP Mike Gaffney plans to hold public forums around the state after he releases a draft of his voluntary assisted dying bill, which he intends to introduce to state parliament this year (Tasmania Talks).

SA: A new survey has showed overwhelming public support for voluntary assisted dying, with 84.6 per cent of people in favour of the legalisation of euthanasia for terminally ill people (The Advertiser).

Commentary and Analysis

Scott McDougall, Commissioner of the Queensland Human Rights Commission, writes that some of the proposals in the draft Religious Discrimination Bill risk damaging the very fabric of our secular society (Courier Mail).

It’s time for Australians to stop playing footsie with the religious right and, instead, carry the fight against religious privilege up to them, writes Doug Pollard (The Stirrer).

Peter Wertheim, of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, writes that his community would be much the poorer if it did not have its own institutions and services to cater to the religious and cultural needs of Jewish people (ABC).

Matt Holden writes that the alleged case of a Muslim Uber driver refusing to serve passengers who were carrying ham shows what a "can of worms" the push for religious discrimination protections is (The Age).

The Religious Discrimination Bill, a promise to the people who voted against equality, could wind back decades of hard-fought protections, writes Paige Burton (Star Observer).

A public relations campaign proved pivotal in Israel Folau’s legal case against Rugby Australia, writes Aaron Patrick (AFR).

Abuse victim advocate Chrissie Foster writes that the legal fraternity should not take part in the Red Mass to be overseen by Archbishop Peter Comensoli, a man who has pledged to defy Victoria’s new mandatory reporting laws (The Australia).

No compromises should be made with a ‘religious freedom’ movement that cannot be appeased, writes LGBTQ activist Rodney Croome (Q News).

Father John Flader ponders the question of whether the bushfires are punishment for the “secular and inhumane country that we have become” (Catholic Weekly).

According to this editorial, for liberally minded Christians, 2019 gave further proof to a cultural appropriation of their religion in the service of aggressive nationalism, xenophobia, homophobia and anti-environmentalism (The Guardian).

That's it for another week!

We hope you had a fantastic Christmas and New Year, and we look forward to keeping you up to date with secular news throughout 2020.

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