Weekend Wrap for 22 February 2020

There’s plenty of news and views on the Religious Discrimination Bill, voluntary assisted dying laws and institutional sexual abuse. Here’s the new Weekend Wrap to help you stay up to date with issues regarding the separation of church and state. Please let us know if we’ve missed anything!

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

Governor-General David Hurley was today set to address National Day of Prayer and Fasting activities, hosted by an organisation whose stated purpose is “for the Revival and Transformation of Australia as a nation with Jesus Christ as Lord” and whose top policy priority is for marriage to be between a man and a woman “to the exclusion of all others”.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has condemned the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill, saying the laws would create “religious privilege” by elevating religious freedom above all other human rights (ABC).

Attorney-General Christian Porter has rejected the argument of some faith groups that the right to hire and fire on religious grounds should be extended to the private sector (Sky News).

The Atheist Foundation of Australia released a short video highlighting the problem women will face accessing health care under proposed religious discrimination laws (YouTube).

LGBTIQ+ communities are planning future rallies against the Religious Discrimination Bill, with organisations saying the community is “starting to grasp the seriousness of these laws” (Star Observer).

Liberal MP Lucy Wicks has denied that she had a conflict of interest over a government grant to a wealthy Pentecostal church that called her a 'dear friend' (The Guardian).

Abuse survivors say they have seen “precious little change” from the Catholic Church in 12 months since the Vatican held a four-day meeting to discuss its response to the sex abuse scandal that as engulfed the church globally (SBS).

The High Court has set dates to hear Cardinal George Pell’s leave to appeal against his conviction for child sex abuse offences, with the case to be heard on 11-12 March (Catholic Leader).

Around the Country

VIC: In response to the release of new figures showing that 52 people had ended their lives in the first six months of the state’s voluntary assisted dying laws, health minister Jenny Mikakos praised the laws for giving Victorians “a compassionate option” (The Guardian).

VIC: Labor MP Marlene Kairouz, a Catholic who opposed her party’s voluntary assisted dying laws when it passed parliament in 2017, said she was deeply concerned about the number of people “committing suicide” under the laws (The Australian, paywalled).

TAS: Dying with Dignity Tasmania, which is leading a new push for voluntary assisted dying laws in its state, says the reports showing the number of Victorians accessing the option highlights the importance of giving people the choice to end their suffering (The Advocate, soft paywall).

VIC: New allegations of “obstructive involvement” in mandatory reporting incidences at St Kevin’s College have emerged following the broadcasting of an investigation into the college’s response to a grooming case (ABC).

VIC: Child Protection Minister Luke Donnellan declared that the "special treatment" for churches had ended as the state’s new mandatory reporting laws applying to religious ministries came into effect (The Age).

VIC: A Christian Brother convicted twice for sexually assaulting boys was appointed headmaster of a Catholic boys school a few years after the religious order became aware of his abuse (The Age).

QLD: The state’s parliament is likely to vote in March on the expansion of mandatory reporting laws to cover religious institutions (Catholic Leader).

QLD [One we missed earlier]: Plans by religious groups to establish new religious instruction classes in two state schools in Brisbane have caused alarm in the schools’ communities (Courier-Mail, paywall).

Commentary and Analysis

The Religious Discrimination Bill is likely to backfire on Christians, writes constitutional law expert and National Secular Lobby Ambassador Luke Beck (SMH).

Father Frank Brennan argues more work is needed to convince politicians and judges to provide “equal protection” to religious people in the face of an “increasingly secular society and secularist state” (ABC).

A panel of religious figures and law experts discuss the potential impacts of the Religious Discrimination Bill (ABC).

Ella Haddad writes that Tasmania’s anti-discrimination laws should be viewed as a model for the nation instead of being overridden (The Mercury, paywall).

Alastair Lawrie argues that the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill is a looming threat to LGBTIQ+ tourism.

By giving religious people not just a shield but a sword, the proposed religious freedom laws are an attack on conscience and freedom, writes Julie Szego (The Age).

While the report into Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying laws provides a “useful snapshot”, more data is needed to assess the operation of the laws, write academics Courtney Hempton and Marc Trabsky (The Conversation).

Researchers Andrea Waling and Anthony Lyons suggest that reforms are needed to support LGBTIQ+ access to aged-care facilities, as many fear being discrimination (The Conversation).

That's it for another week!

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