Weekend Wrap for 8 February 2020

The list of community groups rejecting the divisive Religious Discrimination Bill just keeps getting longer and longer. Here's the latest Weekend Wrap, keeping you up to date with issues regarding the separation of church and state across Australia.

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

Public rallies against the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill are taking place in capitals across the country this weekend (The Brag).

Australia’s Catholic bishops have called on the Morrison government to further strengthen the protections for religious institutions and people of faith, including those relating to the conscientious objection provisions for health and aged-care providers (Catholic Weekly).

In its submission, the Australian Christian Lobby described the re-drafted Religious Discrimination Bill as having “fundamental deficiencies” and lamented that it did not address the group’s most important areas of concern (The Australian).

Dan Flynn from the Australian Christian Lobby argues that religious schools need the right to hire and fire even gardeners based on religious belief to ensure “everyone is an ambassador for the mission” (3AW).

Some health practitioners already objecting to providing services based on their religious beliefs are failing to comply with requirements to refer patients to other providers, says health sociologist professor Louise Keogh (BuzzFeed).

Women’s rights group Fair Agenda believes the Religious Discrimination Bill poses the “biggest threat to reproductive healthcare in decades” (Women’s Agenda).

Diversity Council Australia has warned that the Religious Discrimination Bill would, if enacted, threaten diversity and inclusion in workplaces (Pro Bono News).

Law societies are concerned that the proposed restrictions on employers in the legal profession making conduct rules concerning statements of belief would hinder them from maintaining diversity and tolerance in the workplace (Lawyers Weekly).

Employers’ association Ai Group is calling on the Morrison government to abandon parts of the Religious Discrimination Bill, especially those that will empower religious people to argue that reasonable company policies do not apply to them (AFR).

After being flown to Melbourne along with 16 family members for the Australian Open, Margaret Court claimed that Tennis Australia had tried to discriminate against her in “everything that I’ve done” (The Guardian).

Around the Country

NT: Community groups that have joined forces to oppose the Religious Discrimination Bill say remote communities in the Territory, who have limited access to employment, health services and social services, would be disproportionately affected (Q News).

QLD: Labor and Greens candidates for the upcoming Brisbane City Council election have condemned the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill (Q News).

WA: A devout Christian couple, whose application to become foster parents was denied, claim to have been discriminated against on the grounds of their religious conviction (Brisbane Times).

VIC: A shortage of trained specialist doctors in regional areas means that terminally ill people are dying before they get a chance to access the lethal substance used under the state’s access voluntary assisted dying laws (The Age).

NSW: Members of the legal profession “reaffirmed their commitment to justice and faith” as part of the annual Catholic Red Mass in Western Sydney (Catholic Outlook).

Commentary and Analysis

Professor George Williams, Law Dean of UNSW, says the draft Religious Discrimination Bill “has the potential to sew division in quite troubling ways” throughout society (YouTube).

If the government had stopped at protecting religious belief from discrimination in a similar way to what is already in place for race, sex, age and disability, the Religious Discrimination Bill could be enacted, writes Professor George Williams (The Australian).

It beggars belief that the Morrison government is legislating to protect disgraced institutions, such as the churches, against the interests of Australian citizens, writes Jerry Roberts (John Menadue blog).

For Sharlene Zeederberg, who grew up under Apartheid South Africa, the Morrison government’s proposed religious discrimination laws is deeply shocking (The Big Smoke).

Opposing the Religious Discrimination Bill should not mean that progressive people also oppose all bills that seek to improve the lives of faith-based communities, argues Jack Whitney (Canberra Times).

Academics Alysia Blackham, Adriana Orifici and Liam Elphick explore some of the key challenges facing discrimination law reform and put forward a new approach (The Conversation).

The Australian Christian Lobby’s silence since Israel Folau’s agreement to stay quiet as part of his new playing contract can only be described as deafening, writes Destiny Rogers (Q News).

That's it for another week!

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