Weekend Wrap for 9 August 2020

Across the states and territories, a lot of hot topics of concern to secular-minded Aussies are making headlines – from voluntary assisted dying to council prayers and religious instruction in schools. Get up to date with the latest in this new edition of the Weekend Wrap!

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

Emma Linton, whose petition against the Religious Discrimination Bill has gathered more than 123,000 signatures, has joined forces with the #DontDivideUs campaign, which is being supported by a coalition of free-thought organisations including the National Secular Lobby.

As part of its ongoing effort to restrict Australians’ access to pornography websites, the Australian Christian Lobby is urging the Morrison government to require that such sites introduce mandatory age verification measures (ACL).

Around the Country

QLD: The Australian Christian Lobby has launched an e-petition on the Brisbane City Council’s website to counter a grassroots petition that is gathering hundreds of signatures in support of the call to remove prayers from official council proceedings, with the lobby group arguing that removing prayers would “take away something of Australia's cultural heritage” (ACL).

QLD: Representatives of Redland City Council have reiterated their support for maintaining a five-minute devotional segment, which includes the recital of prayers, at the start of their council meetings, with one councillor arguing that prayers must stay because "Australia is a Christian country” (Redland City Bulletin).

QLD: A new YouGov poll shows that an overwhelming majority – 77 per cent – of people of faith in Queensland support voluntary assisted dying laws for people in the late stages of an advanced disease (The Guardian).

QLD: Minor parties One Nation and Katter’s Australian Party have declared they will not support moves to legalise voluntary assisted dying if they form the balance of power in parliament after the October state election (Catholic Leader).

TAS: Voluntary assisted dying campaigners were “incredibly overwhelmed” that a petition to the state’s Legislative Council advocating for voluntary assisted dying laws attracted a record number of signatures (The Examiner).

TAS: Independent MLC Mike Gaffney has rebuked suggestions by a palliative care specialist that his proposed voluntary assisted dying bill has been “cobbled together” and would “open a can of worms” for health professionals (ABC, listen from 8.20 to 27.30).

TAS: Cyber attacks have targeted a prominent voluntary assisted dying advocate, with her campaign and personal social media accounts breached (The Advocate).

NT: Surveys conducted by the Council on the Ageing show that seniors in the territory overwhelming support voluntary assisted dying laws for the terminally ill (Go Gentle).

SA: Regional doctors in remote areas are calling for urgent reform to the state’s abortion laws, arguing that women in regional areas are particularly disadvantaged in getting access to terminations (ABC).

NSW: In praising Mark Latham MLC for tabling the Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020, the Australian Christian Lobby said schools have no right to “undermine parents and impose scientifically debunked” teaching on ‘gender fluidity doctrine’ (ACL).

NSW: The head of a Christian provider of Special Religious Education (SRE) in public schools has rejected the renewed calls of principals and parents to remove SRE from class time, saying a recent government review made no such recommendation (Eternity News).

VIC: Reason Party leader Fiona Patten has introduced to state parliament a motion calling on the Attorney-General Jill Hennessy to take punitive action against the Jehovah’s Witness for refusing to join the National Redress Scheme.

WA: Catholic Archbishop Timothy Costelloe has told a parliamentary inquiry that proposed mandatory reporting obligations should not be extended to include information gained by clergy during the sacrament of confession as the practice of confession is an “intimate encounter with God” (Catholic Weekly).

NT: Labor candidates for the territory’s upcoming elections have snubbed a forum hosted by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) and attended by serveral other candidates.

NSW: A western Sydney mayor has slammed the state government for allowing 400 Muslim worshippers to gather at Auburn Gallipoli Mosque for Eid al-Adha prayers amid concerns of COVID-19 spreading in the state (Sky News).

QLD: A boys’ school that uses a sex education handbook that asks students to consider whether “God hates homosexuals” received more than $4 million in taxpayer funding in 2018 while also achieving a $2 million surplus in the same year (Q News).
UPDATE: the school have apparently stopped using the handbook following a backlash from parents.

WA: A total of $12 million in funding from state and federal governments will go towards building a new Jewish community centre in Perth (J-wire).

Commentary and Analysis

Constitutional law professor Nicholas Aroney argues that new research about religious discrimination around the world highlights why an Religious Discrimination Act is needed in Australia (The Conversation).

The absence of transparency in the drafting of a key document, the instrumentum laboris, in the Plenary Council process is deeply concerning for the wider Catholic community, writes political science emeritus professor John Warhurst (John Menadue blog).

That's it for another week!

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