Catch up on all the latest secular news and views from the past week in our latest Weekend Wrap.

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

Questioned on whether the seal of confession should be protected from mandatory reporting laws, Australia’s new ambassador to the Holy See has said that the safety of children comes before religious freedom (Crux Now).

In a letter to Catholics, Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli has said the church would accept the use of an ethically compromised vaccine “if no other option is available, in order to protect lives” (Catholic Leader).

Applicants for Australian citizenship will be asked whether religious laws override Australian law as one of five new questions about values on the test (Hepburn Advocate).

In a message to Jewish Australians who are celebrating Rosh Hashanah, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has remarked that spiritual beliefs and lived traditions “help shape the values that define who we are as a people” (Australian Jewish News).

Tennis player Andy Murray has backed calls to remove Margaret Court's name from a tennis arena at Melbourne Park, saying that the outspoken Christian pastor’s values are at odds with what tennis stands for (The Guardian).

Around the Country

TAS: In giving his opening speech on his voluntary assisted dying bill in the Tasmanian parliament, Independent MLC Mike Gaffney has argued that terminally ill Tasmanians have waited far too long to be legally able to end their suffering: (Yahoo).

TAS: Former Tasmanian health minister Michael Ferguson has cautioned against the voluntary assisted dying bill, arguing that it would encourage suicide (The Examiner).

TAS: Catholic health providers in Tasmania have vowed to take no part in helping people access assisted dying, saying they would neither offer the prescription of a lethal substance nor administer a lethal substance to a person by a doctor (Catholic Weekly).

TAS: Catholic Archbishop Julian Porteous has called for the assisted dying bill to undergo independent expert scrutiny after more than 800 health professionals published an open letter urging Premier Peter Gutwein to support an inquiry (Catholic Weekly).

TAS: The Australian Christian Lobby has urged Mike Gaffney to listen to the voices warning that his “assisted suicide” bill would lead to a “slippery slope” of negative outcomes (ACL).

QLD: Campaigners for voluntary assisted dying laws in the state are urging voters to demand their local candidates to make clear where they stand on the issue before next month’s election (7 News).

NSW: Media personality Andrew Denton will help launch Dying with Dignity’s new campaign for voluntary assisted dying laws in the state, with registrations now open for people to join an online launch event.

WA: The Liberal opposition has confirmed it would not be supporting a parliamentary committee’s recommendation to exempt the seal of confession from proposed mandatory reporting laws (Catholic Weekly).

VIC: Security guards involved in the state's bungled hotel quarantine scheme refused to sanitise their hands over religious beliefs (Daily Mail).

VIC: The Australian Christian Lobby has labelled COVID-19 restrictions on churches and other faith groups as “religious discrimination” and an attack on religious freedom (ACL).

NSW: Worshippers at St Mary's Cathedral have been granted a temporary COVID exemption to allow up to 300 people to gather, with a health department spokesperson saying the exemption had been granted “in light of the importance of the priests’ ordination” (7 News).

QLD: Catholic Archbishop Mark Coleridge has called for the state government to show “compassion” and ease COVID-19 quarantine rules after a Canberra-based nurse was barred from attending her father’s funeral (Catholic Leader).

NSW: Women from Wagga Wagga seeking an abortion are being forced to travel far to other regional cities, including Wodonga in Victoria, due to the lack of services in their area (ABC).

QLD: The Australian Christian Lobby has revealed it has been meeting with Christians on the Sunshine Coast to “plan a response” to the Noosa Temple of Satan’s upcoming Black Mass (ACL).

WA: Advocates for bans on gay conversion have questioned the government’s double standard in not wanting to protect people from the practice in religious communities while seeking to protect children under expanded mandatory reporting laws that cover religious ministers (Out in Perth).

WA: Greens MLC Alison Xamon has criticised the state government for its failure to commit to banning gay conversion practices in religious settings (Out in Perth).

SA: The Australian Christian Lobby has argued that a proposed bill outlawing gay conversion practices in the state would “contradict the best science” and criminalise parents “for saying boys are boys, and girls are girls” (ACL).

NSW: Scripture providers have boosted their online resources in a bid to have ready-made lessons on hand in case further COVID-19 restrictions impact accessibility to public school classrooms (Eternity News).

QLD: The Redlands City Council – revealed by the National Secular Lobby recently as being one of the country’s worst-offending local governments in holding long prayer sessions as part of official council meetings – is selling tickets to a prayer breakfast to raise funds for chaplaincy services in public schools (Redlands City Bulletin).

NSW: Catholic schools will remove from buildings the name of a Marist brother accused of sexual abuse (The Guardian).

WA: The Australian Christian Lobby has thanked its supporters for sending 1,200 letters and emails to the City of Perth’s mayoral candidates and commissioners, who “bowed to the pressure” to maintain a Christmas nativity event (ACL).

Commentary and Analysis

Neil Francis reveals that multiple ‘non-religious’ anti-voluntary assisted dying campaigns are being run through the Catholic Archdiocese of Hobart, with key activists directly reporting to Archbishop Julian Porteous.

Barrister Greg Barns writes that opponents of voluntary assisted dying are being intellectually dishonest in using ‘slippery slope’ arguments to prevent Mike Gaffney’s bill from becoming law (The Mercury).

Helen McArdle, of the Australian Medical Association, argues that governments must strive to improve care through palliative care and advance care planning instead of voluntary assisted dying (The Mercury).

Neil Francis exposes how an anti-voluntary assisted dying opinion piece that attempted to give the appearance of ‘secular impartiality’ was actually penned by a leading member of Catholic Voices Australia.

While the use of voluntary assisted dying by minors does happen in the four countries where it is legal, such cases are very rare, writes Neil Francis (Rationalist Society of Australia).

In a letter to the faithful, Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli shares the Catholic Church’s perspective on the development of a vaccine for COVID-19.

One can only hope that the archbishops’ letter to the government will not complicate or impede the efforts to achieve the earliest available and most effective vaccination for Australia, writes Bruce Kaye (ABC).

Jeff Sparrow explores why conservatives who “once championed the sacredness of every human life” have shown little regard for the loss of life during the COVID-19 pandemic (The Guardian).

The rise of online antisemitism through the growing QAnon conspiracy should alarm us all, writes federal member of parliament Josh Burns (Australian Jewish News).

That's it for another week!

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