Weekend Wrap for 7 February 2021
Legislation banning gay conversion practices passes in Victoria, despite staunch opposition from church hierarchy and religious lobbyists. Catch up on that and much more in the latest wrap of secular news and views from across Australia.
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At the National Level
Australia’s political leaders and parliamentarians marked the start of the 2021 parliamentary year with an ecumenical church service at a cathedral in Canberra (CathNews).
The federal government’s decision to give institutions responsible for child abuse an extra eight years to sign up to the National Redress Scheme has drawn the ire of abuse victims (New Daily).
Labor is calling for new levies to be imposed on institutions that deliberately restructure their organisations to avoid being held accountable to the National Redress Scheme, with MP Linda Burney raising concerns that the Jehovah's Witnesses has restructured itself to dodge the scheme (7 News).
The Australian Federal Police says it did not find any criminal misconduct in its investigation into payments made from the Vatican to Australia between 2014 and 2020 (ABC).
Researchers who are mapping historical clerical paedophile networks within the Catholic Church have described a “mafia-like” code of silence operating among “dark networks” within the institution (ABC).
In a Pew Research Centre survey exploring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on faith in 14 developed countries, only 10 per cent of Australians said their faith had strengthened during the pandemic (ABC).
Around the Country
VIC: Gay conversion practices have been outlawed following a marathon debate in the state’s upper house, with the bill passing 27 votes to nine (SMH).
VIC: Divisions have opened between conservative and moderate members of the state’s Liberal Party after the opposition’s cabinet decided to support the legislation banning gay conversion practices (The Age).
VIC: In speaking to parliament on the legislation banning gay conversion practices, Reason Party Leader and NSL Ambassador Fiona Patten argued that religious freedom should “not trump the rights of our community to live safely and without harm”.
VIC: Earlier in the week, doctors and psychiatrists called on the Andrews government to make changes to its bill to outlaw gay conversion practices, with some practitioners warning that the “broad” measures would discourage them from treating vulnerable patients (The Age).
VIC: A group of lay Catholics pushing for institutional change within the church rejected Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli’s claim that the bill banning gay conversion practices was an attack on religious freedom (The Age).
VIC: Two Jewish groups, Jewish Care and the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, welcomed the passing of the law banning gay conversion practices, labelling the occasion as a “proud day” for the state (J-Wire).
TAS: Prominent LGBTIQ campaigner Rodney Croome is seeking a meeting with Premier Peter Gutwein to discuss the prospects of introducing legislation to outlaw gay conversion practices in the state (The Advocate).
VIC: Two councillors at the Mornington Peninsula Council will push to overturn a decision that removed the recital of prayer from the official proceedings of council meetings (Mornington Peninsula News).
SA: Parliamentarian Connie Bonaros has hit out at “offensive” and “personal” criticism directed at her for having supported legislation to decriminalise abortion in the state, detailing how one person asked how, as a mother, she could vote against the “God-given gift of life” (In Daily).
NT: Chief Minister Michael Gunner is hopeful that the departure of Liberal MP Kevin Andrews from federal politics will help the territory in its push to regain the right to legislate on matters such as voluntary assisted dying (ABC).
NSW: Sydney Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher is urging parents to make their voices heard in submissions to a parliamentary inquiry into ark Latham’s proposed legislation, which aims to affirm parents as the primary educators of their children and prohibit the promotion of gender fluidity in schools (Catholic Weekly).
QLD: A majority of the state’s MPs have refused to reveal how they will vote on voluntary assisted dying (Courier Mail).
NSW: The Council of the Aging has voiced its support for voluntary assisted dying to made legal in the state, arguing that people should have the right "to make informed decisions about, and to have control over, their end-of-life care in keeping with their beliefs and values".
QLD: In its latest attack on the Noosa Temple of Satan, the Australian Christian Lobby has argued that the temple’s spiritual leader Brother Samael Demo-Gorgon and its followers have “no interest in religion or a belief in the supernatural”.
WA: A sex abuse victim who was awarded $2.45 million in compensation has spoken out about the devastating impact of the abuse on his life and accused the Catholic Church of brushing victims “under the carpet” (ABC).
Commentary and Analysis
Writing in support of introducing laws to ban gay conversaion practices, Daniel Comensoli, a gay man and nephew of Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli, argues that the debate reveals the hypocrisy of the institution of the Catholic Church that “catastrophically failed to protect the most vulnerable members of our community and, subsequently, engaged in a systemic cover-up” (SMH).
Catholic Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill, who has been campaigning in support of the Morrison government’s Religious Discrimination Bill and to make the Labor party more attractive to people of faith, writes that a divide is “emerging between Australians of faith and Australians of no faith” and raising the prospect of “battles” and “impending casualties” (Catholic Weekly).
As Australia’s military personnel increasing identifies as having no religious affiliation, Colonel Phillip Hoglin outlines a wide range of potential benefits for the Australian Defence Force in transitioning toward being a genuinely secular, diverse and inclusive organisation (The Forge).
Misha Ketchell writes that the “American-influenced culture warriors” of the Australian Christian Lobby have been ramping up their “hate campaign” against religious and gender freedom (The Conversation).
This Courier Mail editorial labels as “pathetic” the behaviour of state parliamentarians for refusing to reveal their position voluntary assisted dying.
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