We’re back with a wrap of news and analysis in the secular space from the past week. A big focus has been the late push by conservative religious forces to pressure the Morrison government to usher in positive religious protections.
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The National View
The Morrison government is expected to release a draft of its religious freedom legislation within the coming weeks, with Attorney-General Christian Porter hopeful it will be introduced and considered in both houses of parliament by the end of the year (The Australian).
The Catholic Church is demanding the government go further than an exemption-based law by introducing positive protections to recognise religious rights and allow religious institutions to act according to their teachings (The Australian).
The Attorney-General has made it clear that the legislation will not give in to the demands of religious pressure groups for positive protections, saying the laws will be a “shield” and “not a sword” (The Guardian).
Labor MP Ed Husic says he is concerned about the government’s lack of community consultation during the drafting of its religious freedom legislation and warns of the potential for community division (Sky News).
Greens MP Adam Bandt argues that the government’s proposed religious freedom legislation will be “an attack on equality” and merely a concession to the hard right of the coalition (Sky News).
Christian leaders hope that new laws will mean that church-run aged care homes will not have to support people to access end-of-life options under various voluntary assisted dying laws across the country (The Age).
A new Galaxy/YouGov poll shows that 63 per cent of Australians do not support religious organisations having a special right to discriminate against LGBTIQ people or people based on marital status (Star Observer).
Around the Country
QLD: New laws to be introduced into the state parliament will extend mandatory reporting requirements concerning child abuse to religious clerics and cover information gained in the confessional (Brisbane Times).
VIC: Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli became the latest Catholic leader pledging to ignore new laws to force priests to report to the state authorities information about suspected child abuse, saying he would rather go to prison (ABC).
NSW: Premier Gladys Berejiklian has caved into pressure from angry conservatives over the abortion decriminalisation legislation, delaying the bill’s progress through parliament until next month and promising no more conscience votes during this term of parliament (SMH).
NSW: Premier Berejiklian has revealed she would not personally be comfortable with the process of having an abortion because of her religious beliefs, but added she would not judge other women in such circumstances (The Australian).
QLD: Former Premier Campbell Newman, who was among advocates of voluntary assisted dying at a parliamentary inquiry, expressed his regret about not acting on the issue during his time in power (9 News).
QLD: In speaking to the parliamentary inquiry about voluntary assisted dying, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge warned politicians not to be “seduced” by the personal stories of people who have suffered with serious illness (Canberra TImes).
NSW: The Department of Education has endorsed a new trial to allow high school students to choose from religious scripture or ethics classes (SMH).
Commentary and Analysis
Alastair Lawrie is fearful that the delay in releasing the religious freedom legislation means it may include more ‘nasty’ elements, with the potential to undermine existing anti-discrimination laws across the country.
Former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward warns Christians who are calling for positive protections that they are “not the only ones out there”, suggesting that such protections may, for example, empower other religious minorities to push for religious quotas in parliament (SMH).
As a series of current issues challenge the church-and-state relationship across Australia, Emeritus Professor John Warhurst writes that religious institutions should not forget the generous financial treatment they receive from the state (Canberra Times).
Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous makes his case for why new laws should protect religious freedom and guarantee the right of faith-based institutions to teach according to their doctrine (The Australian).