Progress towards legalising voluntary assisted dying in Tassie has inched closer. Catch up on that story and more in the new Weekend Wrap of secular news from the past week.
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
Australians are rapidly dropping their religious affiliation, particularly younger age groups, according to the latest annual Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) by the University of Melbourne.
Media companies will be forced to defend their coverage of Cardinal George Pell’s sexual abuse trial in the supreme court after Justice John Dixon said there was sufficient evidence that would allow the charges to be proven beyond reasonable doubt against 27 media companies journalists and editors (The Guardian).
The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils has labelled China’s actions in criticising Australia for the behaviour of SAS soldiers in Afghanistan as the “height of hyposcrisy”, given that China itself is “infamous for its systemic suppression of freedoms, systemic repression of dissent and systemic murder of its own citizens”.
The head of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils has moved to distance his organsiation from a new Islamic body, warning his members to make sure they are cautious about the new organisation because “many of our children have fallen victim to people acting wrongly in the name of Islam”.
Cardinal George Pell has revealed his feeling of a “dismayed sense of vindication” as the financial mismanagement he tried to uncover in the Holy See is now being exposed in a Vatican corruption investigation (The Age).
Tim Costello was among three religious figures who were granted a meeting with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to deliver a letter of thanks to the Prime Minister for extending help to Australia’s neighbours in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic (Eternity News).
Research conducted by faith-based research groups, including McCrindle, claim that the COVID-19 pandemic is driving Australians, including non-Christians, closer to God (Eternity News).
Around the Country
TAS: Tasmania is on the verge of becoming the third state to legalise voluntary assisted dying after the lower house of the parliament voted 17-7 for the bill to pass the second reading stage (The Advocate).
TAS: In opposing the voluntary assisted dying legislation, Attorney-General Elise Archer argued that she could not support a bill that had not “gone through the usual and exhaustive processes of law reform” (The Advocate).
TAS: Independent upper house member Mike Gaffney thanked Health Minister Sarah Courtney for her carriage of the voluntary assisted dying bill through the lower house (The Advocate).
SA: In an emotional speech to parliament introducing a bill to legalise voluntary assisted dying, Labor’s Kyam Maher argued it was now “time to let terminally ill South Australians safely and legally choose how to end their lives”.
QLD: The Queensland Law Reform Commission is in discussions with Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman about finding a “realistic time frame” for parliamentary debate on a proposed voluntary assisted dying bill, raising doubt about the Premier’s promise to introduce it in February (The Australian, paywalled).
QLD: In a submission to the Queensland Law Reform Commission on voluntary assisted dying, Catholic Health Australia have warned that staff at religious-run hospitals and aged-care facilities should not have to participate in helping people to access the end-of-life option (Catholic Leader).
SA: The state government has introduced legislation into parliament to remove exemptions that allow religious organisations to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, with Attorney-General Vickie Chapman saying religious freedoms “need to be balanced against the rights of individuals to fairness and equality” (Adelaide Advertiser).
SA: Saddened to see the abortion decriminalisation bill pass the upper house, the Australian Christian Lobby is now calling on the lower house to reject the “abortion to birth” when the bill is debated in 2021.
QLD: A new petition calling for prayers to be removed from parliament and from councils because, claiming that “imposing religious observances” is unconstitutional, is now receiving signatures on the state parliament’s website.
VIC: Religious groups have accused the state government of “over-reach” with its legislation to outlaw gay conversion practices, with churches and ministries fearing they will be sanctioned for wanting people to live in accordance with their faith (The Age).
VIC: The Australian Christian Lobby-aligned Human Rights Law Alliance has labelled the Andrews’ government effort to ban gay conversion practices as a “direct attack” on Christianity (Catholic Weekly).
NSW: Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a further relaxing of COVID rules relating to churches, increasing the number of people allowed to attend services and providing for singers to perform indoors (Eternity News).
WA: A Christian couple who were stopped from becoming foster parents due to their belief that “homosexuality is a sin that can be overcome” have told a court that the adoption service could have matched them with an appropriate child (Star Observer).
WA: The Vatican has confirmed Bishop of Broome Christopher Saunders has been granted six months "sabbatical leave" as a two-year police investigation continues into allegations of sexual misconduct (ABC).
VIC: A Buddhist community fears its spiritual leader may soon face deportation after the Department of Home Affairs rejected his application for exemption from an English language test (ABC).
Commentary and Analysis
Analyst Alastair Lawrie writes that the Labor party’s draft platform, which supports the “right of all Australians to manifest their religion or beliefs”, poses a danger for the LGBTIQ community, arguing that this right must always be balanced by the need to protect the fundamental human rights of others.
Writing for the Sydney Anglicans, Russell Powell argues that the behaviour of some SAS soldiers in Afghanistan and the public fallout show there is a great need for Anglican chaplains in the defence force.
Martyn Iles, of the Australian Christian Lobby, writes the the Victorian bill to ban gay conversion practices is “by far the worst and most flagrant attack on basic freedom this country has ever seen,” saying that coercive practices and abuse in this area are not even happening in Australia.
Monica Doumit, of the Catholic Weekly, argues that the Victorian government’s efforts to outlaw gay conversion practices shows another example of how Labor “always have to take things to their most extreme”.