Weekend Wrap for 19 April 2020

A prominent Liberal tips a delay for the Religious Discrimination Bill. This is the new edition of the Weekend Wrap, bringing you news and views on issues of concern for secular-minded Australians from the past week. Stay safe!

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

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz says he expects the Religious Discrimination Bill to remain on the “backburner” as the Morrison government handles the coronavirus crisis, but he is hopeful that 2021 will be the year religious freedom laws are enacted (Sky News, watch from the 6.10 minute mark).

Christian news site Eternity News has claimed a small Pentecostal church has written a letter of protest to Prime Minister Scott Morrison about the forced church closures and social distancing rules due to the pandemic.

The Vatican has welcomed the previous week’s verdict of the High Court and has praised Cardinal George Pell for having "waited for the truth to be ascertained" (The Australian).

Cardinal Pell, in an interview with his longtime friend and supporter Andrew Bolt, admitted he was ashamed of his church for treating the child sexual abuse issue “so inadequately for so long” and described the ABC’s reporting of his case as a “betrayel of the national interest” (Sky News, full interview).

In the interview with Bolt, Cardinal Pell referred to the complainant who testified against him as a “poor fellow” and speculated that he may have been “used” (The Guardian).

Police are investigation new child sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Pell relating to when we was a priest in Ballarat in the 1970s (The Guardian).

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in joining with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg for a video message for the festival of Passover, thanked members of the Jewish community for their prayers, which he described as “sustaining us” and “uplifting us” (Australian Jewish News).

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in his newly released book, has accused the Murdoch media of routinely exploiting and encouraging “intolerance and racial and religious animosities” (The Guardian).

Rugby Australia is seeking a $16 million loan from World Rugby to cover outstanding debts, including the costs incurred during the Israel Folau religious discrimination case (The Australian).

Around the Country

VIC: The ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who were the subject of a police raid for holding a group prayer session during the pandemic claimed that they were staff members and volunteers who were required to assist in conducting a livestream of a Passover service (Australian Jewish News).

VIC: The Andrews government is threatening to deny funding to organisations that fail to join the National Redress Scheme for institutional child sexual abuse survivors (ABC).

NSW: The state’s Anti-Discrimination Board has declined a complaint made by a gay rights activist about Israel Folau’s infamous social media posts and anti-homosexual sermons (Yahoo News).

SA: Temporary changes to the state’s abortion laws during the coronavirus outbreak could allow for women to use telehealth services rather than in-person consultations in accessing medical abortions (In Daily).

VIC: An anti-Semitism group is pushing for the display of Nazi symbols to be banned after a flag depicting a swastika was erected in the town of Kyabram, alongside Chinese national flags, stamped with the word 'COVID-19': (Australian Jewish News).

Commentary and Analysis

With people leaving the Catholic Church in droves, Sebastian Tesoriero shares his advice on how others can effectively battle the church bureaucracy to become an ex Catholic (The Guardian).

Gay rights activist Rodney Croome writes that, for the sake of the health of the LGBTQ+ community, we don't hear anything more about the Religious Discrimination Bill following the pandemic (Q News).

While being historically reluctant to intervene, the High Court acted on the Cardinal Pell case because it was persuaded that an injustice might have been done, writes Jack Waterford (John Menadue blog).

In choosing to give his first interview after being released from prison to a network full of Right-wing pundits, Cardinal Pell was intent on giving a ‘’mighty finger” to all those who have cast aspersions on any aspect of his character or actions, writes Michael Galvin (Independent Australia).

Dr Wanda Skowronska writes that Pell’s “lonely journey of vilification, condemnation and destruction of a reputation” reflects a court judgement from 2,000 years ago (Catholic Weekly).

Dr Kevin Donnelly, of the Australian Catholic University, argues that the reactions to the High Court’s decision on Cardinal Pell illustrate a hostility to the Catholic Church and can only be described as “hypocritical and biased” (Catholic Weekly).

While it has been hard to square the Prime Minister’s religious beliefs with the actions of the Coalition government over a number of years in dividing the poor between the deserving and the undeserving, Ross Gittens writes that the coronavirus crisis may be bringing about a Christ-like change of heart (John Menadue blog).

That's it for another week!

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