Weekend Wrap for 29 June 2019

While there has been A LOT of news and analysis on some big issues – especially the Folau saga and the Queensland petition for a review of religious instruction in state schools – it’s not possible to pack everything into this Wrap! So we’ve highlighted the main developments.

The Weekend Wrap is also published on our new Facebook page!

The National View

Prime Minister Scott Morrison reiterates his promise to deliver a religious discrimination act, arguing that Australians should be free to “get around” with their religious views and to not feel intiminated for having them (Sky News).

The failure of Israel Folau and Rugby Australia to reach a deal during a four-hour conciliation hearing at the Fair Work Commission on Friday means that the dispute will be heading for court (The New Daily).

Earlier in the week, the Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies argued that Folau’s right to express his faith and act according to his conscience was of “fundamental importance in any democracy” (The Guardian).

Chairman of Rugby Australia, Cameron Clyne, says they have the game as a whole to consider and it's not just about Israel Folau.

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), which has tax-free status as a registered charity for the ‘advancement of religion’, could be investigated by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission for its actions in raising funds for Folau (The Conversation).

Magda Szubanski and Father Rod Bower are among those spearheading the ForLove fundraising effort as a response to the campaigns for Folau through GoFundMe and the ACL (Mamamia).

Around the Country

NSW: Parents at a high school in New South Wales have raised concerns about children being forced to sit outside in cold and hot weather conditions while other students participate in Special Religious Education class (Guardian News).

QLD: Kicking off a media storm over religious instruction (RI) was the revelation last Sunday that the last time a Queensland government had reviewed RI provisions in the Education Act they were found to be “...at variance with the educational role of the state school in contemporary society” (Sunday Mail; paywalled article).

QLD: Making many media appearances during the week, Alison Courtice, spokesperson for Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools (QPSSS), made a strong case for a review into the way religion is presented in state schools. Here are just a few articles:

A Current Affair
ABC Radio
Brisbane Times

Late in the week, the Palaszczuck government showed little interest in the QPSSS petition, with Education Minister Grace Grace arguing that the current arrangement around RI is ‘working’ (Brisbane Times).

WA: An expert advisory panel has delivered a number of recommendations to parliament regarding the government’s proposed voluntary assisted dying legislation, with restrictions to be placed on people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia (ABC).

WA: While a ‘small majority’ of its members support voluntary assisted dying, the Australian Medical Association will not change its opposition to it. Doctors may be split on the issue, but nurses in Western Australia are not. They’re overwhelmingly in favor (ABC).

Commentary and Analysis

Tory Shepherd writes that "Israel Folau is really just a patsy, a proxy, a pawn in a bigger game of politics, money and power." (The Advertiser; paywalled article).

Fresh from his election failure with the Australian Conservatives, Lyle Shelton pens his hope that a conservative Morrison government will pursue ‘Churchillian’ objectives – top of the list for Lyle being "to uphold the Christian religion and resist all attacks upon it" (Spectator).

Richard Denniss points out how confused Australia’s conservatives are on so many policy fronts – everything from technological change, social change and freedoms (The Guardian).

David Marr reflects on how in the Folau case, like with many others he has reported on before, militant Christians are blind to their arrogance and contradictions (The Guardian).

As Andrew West explains, the main battlelines in the ‘religious freedom’ battle are in the classroom and in welfare services, where employees in faith-based institutions have to sign up to the ‘ethos’ of the employer (ABC Radio National).

Peter Goers writes about Israel Folau's hypocrisy in his cherry-picking of Biblical rules (Adelaide Now; paywalled article).

Peter Catt, Dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Brisbane, writes that many Christians are just as horrified as people outside the church as to how the Folau saga is playing out, and laments that the church is marginalising itself (Brisbane Times).

While some Christians honour Folau for holding the line against the dominant beliefs in the flashpoints of gender and sexuality, others of the faith puzzle as to how such issues have become so definitive to Christian thinking, writes Geoff Thompson (The Conversation).

Professor Katherine Gelber, in this debate with Peter Kurti on religious freedom, argues that all human rights are not absolute and that the freedom to exercise one’s human rights stops at the point at which it impacts on someone else’s human rights (ABC).

That's it for another week!

Don't forget you can also follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

And if you are able, please consider making a contribution to the NSL to help us raise the secular profile in Australia!