Weekend Wrap for 31 May 2020

New doubts emerge about when religious freedom legislation may be introduced into the federal parliament. Read about that and much more in this new Weekend Wrap, which covers a wide range of issues of concern to secular-minded Australians.

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 has revealed that his government has shelved discussions on religious freedom legislation for the time being while it responds to health and economic priorities (The Australian, paywalled).

Legal and policy experts have warned that proposed religious freedom legislation risks putting Australia on the same path as Poland, where, in the latest incident, a HR manager at IKEA faces prison for sacking a Catholic employee who had called for the death of LGBTIQ people (Star Observer).

Liberal candidate for Eden-Monaro, Fiona Kotvojs, who in 2018 made a submission to proposed religious freedom legislation calling for religious schools and organisations to be able to positively discriminate in their employment practices, has reiterated the importance of religious freedom and freedom of speech, saying “we cannot risk them” (The Riot Act).

The Vatican has urged a European security intergovernmental organisation to take measures to protect and promote religious freedom to combat what it claims is rising religiously-motivated hate crimes online (Vatican News).

The Catholic Church has appointed a new working group to develop a national 'whole-of-Church' approach for handling complaints of sexual abuse and other misconduct (Cath News).

More than 130 academics from across Australia have signed an open letter in support of LGBTIQ rights and against gay conversion practices after students at RMIT University decried the scheduled appearance of a lecturer in an online forum hosted by Australian Christian Lobby (Star Observer).

Proposed laws that would ban conversion therapy could risk making any attempt to treat a child with gender dysphoria a form of abuse, according to some health professionals (Catholic Weekly).

In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry on the National Redress Scheme, the Rationalist Society of Australia has proposed tax and financial penalties to any organisation named in the royal commission continuing to avoid participation in the compensation scheme.

Catholic health and aged-care providers have welcomed a new report by KPMG – and commissioned by Palliative Care Australia – claiming that more funding for palliative care would save governments millions of dollars and improve end-of-life care instead of, as one argued, allowing the ”simpler option of legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide” (Catholic Weekly).

The Australian Christian Lobby is calling for all states to ease COVID-19 restrictions for churches to allow them to be considered in the same way as other places of gathering, such as pubs, clubs and restaurants.

Around the Country

NSW: Premier Gladys Berejiklian has altered rules on COVID-19 restrictions to expand the number of people who can attend services in places of worship after a petition by Catholics garnered 20,000 supporters (Catholic Weekly).

SA: A bishop has told a parliamentary committee considering the introduction of voluntary assisted dying laws in the state that his opposition to it was based on the commandment “thou shalt not kill” (Cath News).

NSW: With little hope of seeing voluntary assisted dying laws introduced in her home state anytime soon, a terminally ill cancer patient has told of her agony over potentially not being able to access the end-of-life option in Switzerland due to global travel restrictions (SMH).

VIC: The outbreak of COVID-19 has triggered an uptick in the number of terminally ill people wishing to access voluntary assisted dying at home, with doctors suggesting the pandemic has made such patients fearful of not being able to have a swift and painless death while being surrounded by loved ones (The Age).

WA: The return of pro-life protesters to an abortion clinic in Perth following the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions is upsetting the clinic's clients and staff (WA Today).

VIC: A former principal who says he lost his career in the education sector after sounding the alarm about a dangerous priest is planning to sue the Catholic Church (SMH).

NSW: A now 94-year old mother whose teenage son killed himself in the 1970s after being sexually abused by a Catholic priest is calling for the release of the royal commission’s findings into her local diocese, worried that she may never get a chance to read the details (ABC).

TAS: Scouts Tasmania is selling property to help fund its financial commitments as part of the National Redress Scheme for child abuse victims (The Examiner).

NSW: Labor Party member of parliament and shadow treasurer Walt Secord, who is also a member of the New South Wales Parliamentary Friends of Israel, is currently in the process of converting to Judaism (Australian Jewish News).

Commentary and Analysis

LGBTIQ rights advocate Rodney Croome writes that concerned Australians must keep up the pressure, particularly on the Labor Party, to see that the Morrison government's proposed Religious Discrimination Bill is scrapped (Q News).

The decision by Australia’s bishops to keep secret a review into the Catholic Church’s governance and management structures fails to recognise and accept the new paradigm and reneges on a pledge that ‘business as usual’ cannot continue, write Dr Peter Wilkinson and Dr Gail Grossman Freyne (John Menadue blog).

Dr Andrew McGee argues that the Queensland Premier is wrong in delaying the introduction of voluntary assisted dying (VAD) laws because it is a "complex personal matter that needs further investigation", arguing that only permissive legislation can allow each individual the option to decide whether they may wish to access VAD (Brisbane Times).

Monica Doumit makes the case for why Mark Latham’s proposed anti-discrimination amendment bill provides a common-sense measure to protect people of faith in New South Wales, arguing only the “most hardened of secularists could oppose it” (Catholic Weekly).

Rachael Hocking shares the stories of Aboriginal Australians who were victims of institutional abuse as children and who have now been struggling to see reparation through the National Redress Scheme (SBS).

Dr Kevin Donnelly writes that the New South Wales government’s initial decision to restrict the number of worshippers in churches was unfairly discriminatory and illustrative of “how secular Australian society has become” and how material needs dominate (Catholic Weekly).

That's it for another week!

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