The Weekend Wrap is back for 2021! Here are some of the secular-related news items and views that we’ve been following since our last wrap before Christmas.

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

Reverend Alistair Macrae, a former president of the Uniting Church, is among many who have returned their Order of Australia in protest to Margaret Court’s elevation to the Companion of the Order of Australia (Q News).

The Jehovah's Witnesses will longer be eligible for government grants and may lose its charitable status for tax purposes after failing to sign on to the National Redress Scheme by the December 31 deadline (SMH).

The Catholic Church has introduced a new national protocol for responding to historical child sexual abuse and any new allegations within the church, with leaders saying it will replace the current two protocols, Towards Healing and The Melbourne Response, and will promote “a culture of preventing harm to children and adults at risk of harm” (Catholic Weekly).

The Catholic Church’s private insurer is facing financial difficulties as it is being forced to raise fresh capital and liquidate investments to cover compensation in the hundreds of millions of dollars (SMH).

An Anglican Church investigation into former Archbishop of Perth Roger Herft and his handling of child abuse accusations against priests is facing delays following the release of an unredacted report by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (WA Today).

Former Hillsong members have described how the “cult-like” church uses slave labour, threats to cancel students visas, humiliation, ostracisation as ways to silence people (The Age).

The number of Catholics attending Sunday Mass dropped from 18 per cent in 1996 to just 11.8 per cent in 2016, according to newly released figures from the National Centre for Pastoral Research (Catholic Weekly).

Zara Kay, an Australian citizen and a campaigner for ex-Muslim women, was questioned about the work of her organisation and why she left Islam when she was in police custody after being arrested in Tanzania (ABC).

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells says the reputation of the country’s financial watchdog is tarnished after AUSTRAC admitted to a “coding error” in mistakenly reporting the transferral of AU$2.3 billion from the Vatican to Australia from 2014 to 2020 (Catholic Weekly).

In the United States, former Hillsong members have spoken out how pastors of the Australian church splurged the tithes of their congregations on luxury lifestyles (Christian Post).

Around the Country

QLD: Education Minister Grace Grace has insisted that Satanic religious instruction (RI) classes would not be taking place in public schools “on my watch” (Daily Telegraph).

QLD: The Noosa Temple of Satan has warned Education Minister Grace Grace not to discriminate against families who have signed up their children for Satanic religious instruction, saying the state government cannot decide to accept other religions into the classrooms while refusing Satanism (4BC radio).

QLD: Prominent religious figures have attacked the Noosa Temple of Satan as “a joke” after the Satanists celebrated “a small but important win for religious freedom” in having the pentagram added among the symbols of recognised faiths displayed at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital’s multi-faith centre (SBS).

NT: Chief Minister Michael Gunner is calling for the federal government to overturn commonwealth laws blocking the territory from having the freedom to vote on voluntary assisted dying legislation (The Australian).

NT: Northern Territory Senator Malarndirri McCarthy is calling for the removal of the federal law that blocks the territories from legislating for voluntary assisted dying, describing the current situation as an "unacceptable impingement" on the Northern Territory government in making laws for its people (ABC).

ACT: The Canberra Liberals are under renewed pressure to publicly lobby their federal counterparts to give the ACT and Northern Territory the power to legalise voluntary assisted dying (Canberra Times).

NSW: A new poll by the Australian Institute shows that 74% of coalition supporters in New South Wales want voluntary assisted dying made legal (Canberra Times).

NSW: Premier Galdys Berejiklian said she was not comfortable with voluntary assisted dying and would prefer for legislation not to be debated at this time “given everything else we're facing" (Yahoo).

NSW: Some members of the state parliament are pushing for a public plebiscite to be held on legalise voluntary assisted dying (The Age).

NSW: Pro-life advocates who are trying to prevent voluntary assisted dying from becoming law in the state have said the timing of parliament debate on the issue would be “laughable” while the state continued to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic (Catholic Weekly).

QLD: Tanya Battel, a Brisbane mother-of-two with terminal cancer and a campaigner for voluntary assisted dying laws in Queensland, says the travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have crushed her hopes of being able to legally end her life in Switzerland (Courier Mail).

WA: Radio personality Howard Sattler hopes to be one of the first to make use of Western Australia’s voluntary assisted dying law when it comes into effect in July this year, with Sattler suffering with a rare and terminal brain disease (Go Gentle).

TAS: The Rationalist Society of Australia sent a letter of complaint to the state's Anti-Discrimation Commissioner against the education department after job advertisements for school chaplain vacancies in public schools were restricted only to Christians (The Advocate).

SA: The Australian Christian Lobby is rallying its supporters to contact their local members of parliament to urge them to vote against legislation currently before parliament to decriminalise abortion in the state (ACL).

VIC: A number of faith leaders have signed an open letter to Premier Dan Andrews calling for him to suspend the passage of legislation outlawing gay conversion practices, hold a public inquiry and consult “all faith communities” (Eternity News).

VIC: In seeking to stop the state’s gay conversion bill, the Australian Christian Lobby has gathered a petition of 5,000 signatures and urged its supporters to “fight on” in what it describes a “defining moment for Victoria and for our nation” (ACL).

NSW: A Supreme Court judge has questioned whether Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party should be wound up as an ongoing legal dispute resulted in locks being changed at the party’s state headquarters (SMH).

WA: A Liberal candidate is under pressure to distance herself from comments made by her husband, a Presbyterian pastor, that suggested homosexuals could be “cleansed” of a “gay lifestyle” (Star Observer).

Commentary and Analysis

In announcing he is returning his Order of Australia in protest of Margaret Court’s national honour, Alistair Macrae, a past president of Uniting Church, writes that he hopes for a day when people will associate the Christian church with the spirit of welcome and inclusion (The Age).

Having vowed to restore confidence in an honours system battered by politicisation and skewed towards the wealthy and politically connected, Governor-General David Hurley has now proceeded to make a culture wars decision recognising someone who has campaigned relentlessly for extreme socially conservative values, writes David Hardaker (Crikey, paywalled).

Peter Abetz, of the Australian Christian Lobby, argues that the awarding of the Companion of the Order of Australia for Margaret Court recognises her contribution as a tennis player, as an ambassador for the nation and as a leader in the Christian community (ACL).

Alan Austin questions why religious leaders in America and Australia have been silent while the Trump administration and the Morrison government have lied (Independent Australia).

Janet Cohen, a resident of New South Wales who is living with a terminal diagnosis, shares how the COVID-19 pandemic has taken away her option to seek an assisted death in Switzerland and left her looking elsewhere in Australia (SBS).

Writing in support of introducing voluntary assisted dying in New South Wales, Jodie Harrison, the member for Charlestown, argues that the passing of such legislation will be a “long-overdue reform” (Newcastle Herald).

In a Christmas message, Senator Eric Abetz, writes that the “Judeo-Christian ethic permeates every aspect of our society” and underpins today's secular morality (The Examiner).

That's it for another week!

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