Weekend Wrap for 7 March 2020

While most politicians remain silent about the divisive Religious Discrimination Bill, the country’s largest sporting bodies and even IKEA are taking a stand. Here’s the latest Weekend Wrap of secular news.

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!

The National View

In a report presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief said laws underpinned by religious conviction that discriminate against women and LGBTIQ people should be repealed (UN).

A body representing Australia's largest professional sporting organisations has submitted a scathing assessment of the Religious Discrimination Bill, fearing it would make it harder to discipline players who make discriminatory remarks, compromise the ability to provide inclusive environments and spook sponsors (SMH).

Homewares giant IKEA has rejected the Religious Discrimination Bill, saying in a submission to the Attorney-General that it did not support new legislation that restricted other human rights (The Australian).

The head of Curtin University’s Centre for Human Rights Education has called on all parliamentarians to reject the Religious Discrimination Bill, saying anyone who values human rights “should reject the legislation outright” (Out In Perth).

After months of refusing to comment on the issue, Prime Minister Scott Morrison finally confirmed that he included controversial Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston on the invitation list for a White House dinner (10 Daily).

The Australian government has granted approval to controversial tennis identity Margaret Court to set up a consulate for an African regime that is known for persecuting LGBTIQ people and summary executions (The Age).

Some Catholics are reciting devotional prayers for Cardinal George Pell in the lead-up to his High Court hearing (Life Site).

Around the Country

SA: AnglicareSA has joined the growing list of faith-based organisations around the country that are voicing opposition to the Religious Discrimination Bill, with the group saying it is concerned about the likely harm to the community.

VIC: A Christian college has settled a case with a former teacher who sued it for discrimination on the basis of her support for same-sex marriage (The Australian).

VIC: A Victorian doctor who travels the state to help people access voluntary assisted dying has shared what motivates him to perform this pioneering role (3AW).

NSW: The threatening behaviour of religious people toward medical practitioners in Wagga Wagga is restricting the availability of abortion services in the regional town, forcing many women to travel hours (7am podcast).

NSW: The Teachers Federation has hit out at the Morrison government for “turning its back on public schools” following the $5 billion worth of special deals handed to private schools.

Commentary and Analysis

Allowing just one person to judge whether discrimination is conducted “in good faith” under proposed ‘religious freedom’ legislation will effectively give religions a free pass from the law, writes Professor Beth Gaze (SMH).

Breann Fallon, a non-Jewish person who works as Education Officer at the Sydney Jewish Museum, makes the case for why employment should be made based on qualifications and passion instead of religious beliefs (ABC).

Mark Fowler, of the University of Notre Dame school of law, argues that critics of the Religious Discrimination Bill are calling for a new form of “strict secularisation” between religious and non-religious views in Australia (The Australian).

Gina Rushton explores how the privileging of ‘statements of belief’ will lead to horrible things being said towards women in the workplace and expensive court battles (BuzzFeed).

Mark Snedden, from the Institute for Civil Society (which aims to uphold ‘traditional rights and liberties’), attacks what he describes as “an orchestrated campaign” against the Religious Discrimination Bill (SMH).

Far from creating a society of religious tolerance, Dara MacDonald writes that the Religious Discrimination Bill could inflame sectarian tensions between religious communities and non-religious groups (The Australian).

Michael Fowler takes a close look at the Australian recruitment activities of a secretive Christian cult that was behind the coronavirus outbreak in Korea (SMH).

SBS’s recent ‘Insight’ program explores the emergence of voluntary assisted dying across Australia and what patients and doctors think about it.

Regardless of the outcome at the High Court, the verdict on Cardinal George Pell’s appeal will resonate around the world for years, writes John Ferguson (The Australian).

The decline in women’s participation in the Catholic Church is only going to get worse following the disbanding of two key bodies that aimed to boost their involvement across parishes and dioceses in Australia, write Kathleen McPhillips and Tracy McEwan (The Conversation).

That's it for another week!

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