The Labor Party is moving to build bridges with religious groups through an expanded ‘religious freedom’ policy platform. Catch up on that and more in the new edition of the Weekend Wrap.
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At the National Level
The federal Labor Party is calling for submissions to its newly released draft policy platform which includes a broadened statement about religious freedom that says Labor “supports the right of all Australians to manifest their religion or beliefs, and the right of religious organisations to act in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of their faith”.
In a radio interview, Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill, who supports efforts to expand religious freedoms through the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill, says Labor’s desire to broaden its religious freedom platform is an easy one as it restores support for the "rights of people in a democratic society to hold faith or to choose not to hold a faith” (ABC).
The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils has urged Australia to make a “solemn commitment to stop invading other nations” and to stop supporting “invaders and occupiers” in the wake of the revelations about war crimes committed by Australian Defence Force personnel in Afghanistan.
Archbishop Glenn Davies has told Anglicans that next year’s General Synod would consider the ruling of an Anglican tribunal to allow for same-sex marriages to be blessed in some dioceses, writing in a letter that the decision “undermines the clear teaching of Scripture and thereby dishonours God" (Sydney Anglicans).
The Australian Christian Lobby has announced it will be refunding unused money for rugby star Israel Folau's legal battle to those who contributed to the $2.1 million appeal, with Martyn Iles saying that Christians will be “delighted” that the donations provided an opportunity to spread the gospel (Daily Mail).
Several Liberal National Party sources have raised concerns about the growing influence of a fundamental Christian right-wing faction in the Toowoomba branch after a conservative who claims to be a “family man” won pre-selection ahead of two female candidates for the upcoming by-election for the federal seat of Groom (ABC).
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne has told the international forum, known as Ministerial to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief, that Australia is “committed to promoting and protecting the right to freedom of religion or belief for all”.
A judge has reserved his decision on whether media companies and journalists have a case to answer over the reporting of Cardinal George Pell’s conviction, with 15 journalists facing potential jail terms (Cath News).
Around the Country
QLD: Townsville Catholic Bishop Tim Harris has written to victorious parliamentarians in his diocese and raised “outstanding business” in relation to the re-elected Labor government’s promise to introduce voluntary assisted dying, which he warned would help to “facilitate a culture of death” (Catholic Leader).
TAS: Religious-based critics of Mike Gaffney’s voluntary assisted dying bill are pushing for a lengthy period of public scrutiny and public hearings before it is presented for a vote in the lower house of the state’s parliament (Catholic Weekly).
WA: A Christian couple who believe homosexuality is a sin that can be “overcome” have taken legal action against a foster care agency for religious discrimination after they alleged it rejected their application because of their religious views (Q News).
QLD: The Noosa Temple of Satan has accused Australia Post of making an “extraordinary attack on religious freedom” after the postal service refused to print designs submitted by the Satanists to the “Personalised Stamps” website (The Australian).
VIC: The Australian Christian Lobby is urging members of the state parliament to reject proposed legislation that will ban gay conversion practices, claiming that such laws will penalise parents for having faith-based discussions with their children (ACL).
VIC: A former ward of the state who was forced to undergo electric shock therapy to “cure him” of homosexuality after disclosing he had been sexually abused has reached settlement with the state government and Uniting Church (The Age).
VIC: The Department of Education and Training will partner with the Jewish Community Council of Victoria to develop materials that will help teachers raise understanding about antisemitism, following recommendations from an investigation into allegations of antisemitic bullying at a high school (Australian Jewish News).
NSW: Fred Nile’s Christian Democrat Party claims to have settled its internal differences after a case at the Supreme Court went to mediation, with a statement assuring supporters that the party is now moving forward and will “continue to act in a manner that further advances the values of our Christian principles in and through our government” (Eternity News).
NSW: An Anglican priest who has been forced to resign from his church or face the sack after his marriage broke down says he faces total loss of income by the end of the year and possible homelessness (The Guardian).
SA: Churches and religious schools announced they would close for six days when the state government implemented a lockdown to minimise spread of COVID-19 (Cath News).
Commentary and Analysis
LGBTIQ advocate Rodney Croome writes that Labor and moderate Liberals are going soft on those pushing the “freedom-at-all-costs” movement that originated in the US because they “don’t want to appear to oppose freedom of speech or religion” (Tasmanian Times).
Efforts to decriminalise abortion and to legalise voluntary assisted dying in South Australia represent “the most egregious attacks on religious freedom" in Australia since the banning of the Catholic Mass in the early years of settlement, writes the Catholic Weekly’s Monica Doumit.