Weekend Wrap for 25 April 2021

In this Anzac Day edition of the Wrap, Queensland takes a leading role, with plenty of news on voluntary assisted dying, a Satanic challenge to religious instruction in public schools and an upcoming pro-life rally that is sure to stir controversy.

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

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the Australian Christian Churches National Conference, hosted by the country’s largest Pentecostal church network, that Australia “needs the church” right now, according to social media posts shared by people in attendance (LADbible).

In a podcast interview, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull rejected the suggestion that the mainstream media, especially Nine Newspapers and the ABC, were biased against religion (With All Due Respect podcast).

Government backbencher George Christensen has confirmed he will not be recontesting his Queensland seat at the next election, saying he is disenchanted with the lack of progress on conservative issues such as “enshrining religious liberty, protecting the unborn and ensuring freedom of speech” (ABC).

A Jehovah’s Witnesses charitable organisation ­which was accused by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission of “operating outside of Australia” says the charity watchdog is no longer considering revoking its tax-free charity status (The Australian).

Collin Acton, the former head of chaplaincy for the Navy, is calling for the Australian Defence Force to consider replacing the chaplaincy branches in all three services with a new secular wellbeing support capability (RSA).

Australia’s Catholic Bishops have urged all Catholics to get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19, saying it would be “morally acceptable” to receive a vaccine that had used cell lines from aborted fetuses in its production process (Catholic Leader).

Around the Country

QLD: The state’s education department and education minister Grace Grace are reportedly gripped with ‘Satanic panic’ as the Noosa Temple of Satan takes court action to challenge the government’s ban on Satanic religious instruction (Courier Mail).

QLD: Senator Amanda Stoker, who is assisting new Attorney-General Michaelia Cash to bring the Religious Discrimination Bill to the federal parliament, will be among the high-profile Christian speakers at the March for Life rally against abortion and voluntary assisted dying in Brisbane next month (Catholic Leader).

QLD: Former premier Campbell Newman, who is campaigning for the introduction of voluntary assisted dying in the state, has urged politicians to “take a stand” and reveal whether they support the proposed laws (The Age).

QLD: In retiring from politics to focus on his battle with cancer, Duncan Pegg has urged parliamentarians to visit terminally-ill patients and their families before casting their vote on voluntary assisted dying legislation (Courier Mail).

QLD: A senior Anglican has declared himself to be “agnostic” on voluntary assisted dying, saying he can see both sides of the debate (The Australian).

VIC: Law Institute of Victoria has urged the federal government to amend legislation that prevents telehealth conversations about the option for patients to access voluntary assisted dying.

VIC: Andrew Denton says the Victorian experience with legalised voluntary assisted dying (VAD) shows that the arguments used by anti-VAD scaremongering “which suggested the sky would fall in” are not true (4BC Radio).

QLD: A Jewish group has welcomed the state government’s referral of vilification and hate crime laws to a parliamentary committee for review, saying it was hopeful the inquiry would lead to better protection for the Jewish community and other multicultural groups (J-Wire).

Commentary and Analysis

Following the public condemnation of a range of newly released sex education videos for school students, Amber Schultz writes that religious values and repairing relationships have previously played a role in domestic violence initiatives developed by the Morrison government (Crikey).

The linking of the Prime Minister’s Pentecostal faith and his response to women’s rights and workplace sexual harassment is another illustration of Christianity being a soft target for critics, writes Denise Austin (The Age).

ABC investigative reporter Steve Cannane talks about the Church of Scientology’s controversial activities and its tax-free status in Australia (ABC Radio).

David Hardaker reveals that a young Scott Morrison wrote a detailed thesis for his Bachelor of Science honours degree on the topic of the local history of the obscure evangelical church known as the Christian Brethren (Crikey).

In reviewing changes to the statement of beliefs of the Australian Christian Churches, John Sandeman notes how the Pentecostal church network has taken a new view in its description of Creationism (Eternity News).

New Zealand’s royal commission into historical abuse in state care and in the faith-based institutions is revealing that the problem of abuse in the country’s Catholic institutions appears to be worse than in Australia, writes Dr Murray Heasley (Pearls and Irritations).

Some employees may be able to refuse to obey directions to be vaccinated for COVID-19 based on their religious beliefs, write Ian Neil SC and Nicholas Saady (The Age).

Cam Wilson writes on how retiring Nationals MP George Christensen made a name for himself because of his hardline stance on pet issues, including Christianity, freedom of speech and opposition to Islam (Crikey).

That's it for another week!

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