Weekend Wrap for 13 July 2019

The divide has widened among coalition members as to how expansive new laws to protect ‘religious freedom’ should be. Here's a chance to catch up on the news and analysis in the secular space from the past week.

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The National View

Moderate coalition members are urging the government to keep ‘religious freedom’ laws ‘basic’ and focused on ensuring people are free of discrimination on religious grounds (Canberra Times).

Government conservatives are pushing for a more expansive religious freedom act and warning they could vote against the legislation if it didn’t go far enough (SMH).

Coalition voters, meanwhile, are hardly in favour of the conservatives’ push for stronger protections in the form of a religious freedom act, with a poll finding only 44 per cent are supportive (The Guardian).

Attorney General Christian Porter has indicated that the legislation would capture cases such as Israel Folau’s as it would include a clause to prevent employers from utilising conditions that restrict employees from expressing their religious beliefs (The Guardian).

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a Hillsong conference that the government would “do what we need to do from a legislative point of view” on the religious freedom issue. Oh...and Australia needs more prayer and love! (The Guardian).

The Institute of Public Affairs is warning the government against an all-encompassing bill that ushers in positive rights, concerned that unintended consequences would limit freedom of speech (ABC).

The Attorney General has sought to allay fears that proposed legislation would impinge on existing state laws (The Guardian).

Following consultations with the Attorney General, conservative senator Eric Abetz says nuancing the bill to get it right is a task requiring “the wisdom of Solomon” (ABC).

Former World Vision Australia chief Tim Costello warned against any legislation that covered ‘extreme’ examples of competing rights and suggested Christians get some perspective on their claims of persecution (The Guardian).

In reflecting on the demise of his party, Senator Cory Bernardi rejected the overt mixing of faith and politics by Christian evangelicals. “I don’t argue my position from a Biblical perspective. I’m not having prayer circles before political meetings...” (The Guardian).

Around the Country

QLD: While coalition members are pushing for religious freedom laws in the federal parliament, those from Queensland are considering adopting a policy position of banning Muslims from wearing the burqa (Sunrise).

QLD: Senator Paul Hanson claimed that Australia was a ‘Christian country’ as she criticised the grassroots push in Queensland to remove religious instruction from state schools (Daily Mail).

NSW: Enrolment numbers into Special Religious Education classes have crashed to as few as five per cent of students at some Sydney high schools, sparking renewed calls for scripture to be removed (SMH).

NSW: It’s business as usual for Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party despite an uprising spearheaded by an 18-year-old member who, according to the 84-year-old Nile, is “just too young” (SBS).

NT: The former Chief Minister who oversaw the introduction of the short-lived euthanasia laws in the 1990s concedes that a mistake in drafting the legislation ultimately doomed it to failure (Brisbane Times).

QLD: Voluntary assisted dying advocates tell an inquiry that the end-of-life option should be extended to people with psychiatric conditions and teens (Brisbane Times).

Commentary and Analysis

John Sandeman explores the potential types of religious discrimination billls being considered by the government (Eternity News).

John Pesutto warns conservatives who are pushing to enact positive religious freedom rights that they should be careful what they wish for (SMH).

Father Frank Brennan says he has ‘reservations’ about the push by conservatives for a religious freedom act. "I don't think religious freedom is an enormous problem in Australia." (Politics with Michelle Gratton).

Peter Lewis argues that the public outrage over the Folau case really comes down to establishing norms of behaviour in a digital world, not new attacks on personal freedoms (The Guardian).

While it’s fine for a Prime Minister to have personal religious beliefs, the Australian public doesn’t employ its leaders to be preachers, says Jane Caro, an ambassador for the National Secular Lobby (Sunrise).

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge argues that ‘Prime Preacher’ Scott Morrison is championing legislation that will provide a ‘green light’ to bigotry targeting LGGBTIQ people (The Big Smoke).

Professor Stephen Fogarty suggests that the Prime Minister’s overt display of his religious beliefs represents a significant new style of leadership, with the most profound impact being the breaking down of a divide between ‘public’ and ‘private’ (SMH).

Dr Jennifer Wilson reflects on the Prime Minister’s willingness to share a stage with a Pentacostal leader who was censured by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse (The Big Smoke).

Nathan Hondros provides this explainer for how Western Australia’s proposed voluntary assisted dying laws would work (WAtoday).

With religious affiliation on a fast decline in Britain, Polly Toynbee, Vice President of Humanists UK, questions why public institutions are not reflecting society (The Guardian).

That's it for another week!

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