Weekend Wrap for 7 December 2019

In the new edition of the Weekend Wrap, attention turns to the campaigns for voluntary assisted dying laws in other states after legislation finally passed the Western Australian Upper House. Plus, we have updates on the religious freedom bill and a wide range of other issues of concern to secular Australia.

Don’t forget that the Weekend Wrap, which aims to help secular-minded Australians keep abreast of news, is also published on our Facebook page!

The National View

Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who has been pushing for expansive positive religious rights, has argued that religious Australians would “not feel assured” that their religious freedoms had been protected unless their religious leaders were “confident” of it (Eternity News).

Spokespeople for the Sydney’s Catholic Archdiocese and the Australian National Imams Council have said expanded rights for religious institutions to hire and fire based on religious grounds were necessary to protect their faiths (ABC).

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has urged Labor states to “hasten very slowly” on deliberating voluntary assisted dying, as the progress of VAD in Western Australia increased pressure on other states such as Queensland to follow suit (The Australian).

Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle has defended her organisation for “standing up” for its values in sacking Israel Folau, as the ex-footballer claimed “vindication” following a settlement between the parties (The Age).

Following his settlement with Rugby Australia, Folau urged the federal government to enact legislation “necessary to further protect and strengthen” the rights for religious people (The Australian).

Equality Australia has argued that the settlement between Folau and Rugby Australia showed that a Religious Descrimination Act was not necessary (Out in Perth).

Federal and state attorneys have agreed to key principles for standardising mandatory reporting laws that would force priests to report instances of child abuse revealed to them during confession (Reuters).

Former senator Derryn Hinch has labelled Tony Abbott’s visit to convicted pedophile Cardinal George Pell at a Melbourne prison as a “disgrace and a cruel insult” to Pell’s victims (The Guardian).

Church leaders from the Pacific joined with 200 Christians from Micah Australia – a movement which “empowers ... Christians as advocates, sharing God’s heart for justice” – in meeting with political leaders in Canberra, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison (Eternity News).

A majority of Australians believe organisations should not be allowed to refuse to employ someone on religious grounds, according to a survey by the Centre for Independent Studies (The Age).

Around the Country

WA: The Upper House has voted 24-11 in favour of voluntary assisted dying (VAD) legislation, ensuring that the state will become the second in Australia to legalise VAD once the Lower House approves the final amendments (ABC).

QLD: Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has pledged to give her Liberal National Party colleagues a conscience vote on voluntary assisted dying, as she did on the other “life and death issue” of abortion (The Australian).

QLD: Liberal-National Party members of parliament would “have to answer” to their local preselectors if they supported voluntary assisted dying in a conscience vote, the party’s president has warned (Courier-Mail).

QLD: Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is refusing to comment on the issue of voluntary assisted dying until a parliamentary report is handed down next year, despite calls from advocates for her to act now or risk seeing VAD disappear for years if Labor loses the state election (9 News).

NSW: Fred Nile, the leader of the Christian Democratic Party, has been accused of behaving like a “pure dictatorship” after sacking four board members in a bid to deal with turmoil engulfing the party (SMH).

ACT: Education Minister Yvette Berry has reiterated that having religious chaplains in public schools was inconsistent with secular education, as supporters of chaplains call for the territory government to reconsider its position (ABC).

VIC: Islamic schools are the fastest growing schools in the state, as Muslim parents seek to instill “Islamic values” in their children (The Age).

Commentary and Analysis

Guy Rundell writes that the religious freedom push is really about religious institutions wanting “expanded state-enforced hiring and firing laws to strengthen their institutions and rebuild the congregations they are losing” (Crikey).

Alastair Lawrie takes a pessimistic view on the government’s delay in introducing a religious discrimination bill to parliament, with all of the evidence suggesting that it is most interested in listening to what religious fundamentalists want.

Noel Turnbull analyses the new “crusade” of Right-wingers against The Economist for pointing out the problems in the Morrison government’s proposed religious discrimination bill.

Backbenchers on all sides, including within the government, are “spooked” on the issue of religious freedom, looking as if they would “meekly fall into line lest they incur the wrath of the gods”, writes Niki Savva (The Australian).

Courtney Hempton outlines what will happen next for the voluntary assisted dying legislation to take effect in Western Australia and who will be able to access it (The Conversation).

That's it for another week!

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