Weekend Wrap for 23 August 2020

There's plenty of news on secular issues from right across the country in today's edition of the Weekend Wrap. Read on!

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

Leaders of the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches have written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking that he seek an alternative COVID-19 vaccine because of their concern that the one produced by pharma giant AstraZeneca uses a cell line originally derived from an aborted human foetus (Eternity News).

Senators Jacqui Lambie and Anne Urquhart have raised their concerns about federal government spending being directed to religious chaplains under the National School Chaplain Program, with Senator Lambie arguing that chaplains were 'no substitute' for trained psychologists (The Courier).

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia have finally published a review of diocesan and parish governance and management in Australia after an earlier version was leaked in the media (Catholic Outlook).

Former Labor MP Mike Kelly has told a Jewish group that increasing antisemitism during COVID-19 bears resemblance to the plague outbreak which started “large scale Christian demonisation of the Jewish community and the rise of European antisemitism” in the 14th century (Australian Jewish News).

A new book claims that a whistleblower priest who agreed to give evidence against an archbishop accused of concealing child sexual abuse was mysteriously summoned to the Vatican and quizzed by the Pope about what he was planning to say in court (SMH).

Around the Country

VIC: Reason Party MP Fiona Patten has introduced two new secular bills into the state parliament, one proposing the removal of tax exemptions for all religious and other institutions that have not signed up to the National Redress Scheme, the other reforming the School Chaplaincy Program in that state.

QLD: LBGT campaigner Shelley Argent has described the state’s new law that bans gay conversion therapy only in healthcare settings and not in religious communities as “like a law to ban cigarette advertising but excluding tobacco companies” (Gay Star News).

QLD: Survivors of gay conversion therapy have denounced the new law as ‘useless’ and have called on the Palaszczuk government to strengthen it to cover religious groups if it wins re-election in October (Gay Star News).

ACT: John Steenhof, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby-aligned Human Rights Law Alliance, has argued that the legal implications of the territory’s bill to outlaw conversion practices could include parents facing criminal action if they do not support their five-year-old biological girl wanting to become a boy (Eternity News).

ACT: The Barr government has intervened at a Christian school over 'misconceptions' about its conversion ban legislation after the school sent a letter to parents urging them to oppose the proposed law (Canberra Times, paywalled).

ACT: The Australian Christian Lobby has accused the Barr government of being focused on "attacking the traditions and lifestyles of people of faith" in the lead-up to the territory’s elections, claiming the government chastised a Christian school for making parents aware of the government’s conversion bill (ACL).

SA: Quizzed about her party’s plans to introduce a bill to ban conversion therapy in South Australia, opposition spokesperson for human services Nat Cook has pledged to “get the wording right” to ensure that legislation “does actually cover all forms of the practice that’s going on” (Star Observer).

TAS: Greens MLC Cassy O'Connor says the largest ever e-petition to come before the Tasmanian parliament demonstrates “overwhelming public support” for the proposed law to provide for voluntary assisted dying.

TAS: The Australian Christian Lobby will be “attending a number of meetings” with members of the state parliament’s upper and lower houses to brief them on Mike Gaffney’s proposed voluntary assisted dying legislation (ACL).

WA: The Western Australia government has announced it will be providing $16.3 million to strengthen end-of-life care and support as part of the implementation of its voluntary assisted dying legislation (Mirage News).

VIC: An aged-care facility owned by the Greek Orthodox Church has been served with a Supreme Court writ that could lead to a major class action following the deaths of more than 30 people at the facility during the pandemic (The Age).

VIC: Police have urged people within the Jewish community who witness breaches of COVID-19 restrictions not to take matters into their own hands by harassing suspected offenders, as members of orthodox groups continue to meet in large numbers for religious activities (Australian Jewish News).

VIC: Premier Daniel Andrews has warned those in the Jewish community who may be exploiting loopholes in COVID-19 restrictions that police would have “no hesitation...but to apply significant penalties” (Australian Jewish News).

NSW: In a submission to the parliament on the proposed Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedoms and Equality) Bill, the Rationalist Society of Australia has warned that it would privilege religion over non-religion and provide exemptions to religious institutions not afforded to organisations dedicated to non-religious worldviews (RSA).

NSW: In its submission on the religious freedom bill, the Australian Muslim Advocacy Network has called for the legislation to extend protections to cover vilification on religious grounds (Australian Muslim Network).

NSW: The Board of Jewish Education has rejected the push by the NSW Primary Principals’ Association to remove scripture classes from public schools, arguing that getting ride of scripture from class time would send an “unequivocal negative message that matters of faith and the values of multiculturalism are of minimal importance” (Australian Jewish News).

QLD: More than 60 people have so far expressed interest in attending the Satanic Black Mass in Noosa, being held at Halloween (The Australian).

NSW: Catholic school students will study atheism and sexual identities as part of a radical shake-up of the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta’s religious curriculum (Daily Telegraph, paywalled).

Commentary and Analysis

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie writes that the federal government’s annual funding of religious chaplains in public schools would be better spent on trained counsellors and psychologists (The Advocate).

This editorial backs Senator Lambie's call for schools to have a choice how they spend federal funds earmarked for chaplains, saying that the funding of religious chaplains is “an affront to those who believe in the separation of church and state” (The Advocate).

Equality campaigner Rodney Croome writes that Queensland’s failure to deal with informal religious gay conversion practices amounts to a "religious exemption from the legislation” (Out in Perth).

Survivors of conversion therapy share their personal stories of trauma due to the practice, with one saying that her religious community told her that she was “broken” due to traumas that she experienced in her childhood (SBS).

Greens MLC Alison Xamon argues that Western Australia must demonstrate its commitment to protecting some of our community’s most vulnerable people and ban gay conversion therapy (Out in Perth).

Writing in support of voluntary assisted dying in Tasmania, human rights lawyer Greg argues that the opponents of dying with dignity laws are often "unscrupulous and intellectually dishonest" in their arguments (The Mercury).

David Timbs writes that the Catholic Weekly’s reporting shows little interest in Pope Francis’ call for synodality, to an open plenary council and to the call for reform and renewal (John Menadue blog).

That's it for another week!

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