Recents interviews on our Secular Spotlight blog have been sparking media interest in Queensland and Tasmania. Find the links to those stories and much more in the new edition of the Weekend Wrap, bringing you news and views of concern to secular-minded Aussies.

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

In a new manual issued to bishops conducting investigations into priests who are alleged to have committed sex crimes, the Vatican has said cases of clergy sex crimes should be reported to police (ABC).

Asked on Q+A whether she could have been more supportive of same-sex marriage during her time as prime minister, Julia Gillard has said she would have preferred a discussion on the “status of religious marriage” and “whether that was going to be the dominant way that we looked at marriage” (ABC).

Writing in an American Catholic magazine, George Pell has said he was spat on in prison and has described the legal actions against him as an “expensive charade” (Catholic Weekly).

The St Vincent de Paul Society’s National Council is urging the federal government to establish an expert panel to advise it on social security payment rates in the wake of COVID-19 in an effort to ensure that the payments are “fair, equitable and sufficient to meet basic needs” (Catholic Outlook).

Catholic Social Services wants the federal government to commit to leaving JobSeeker payments at their current levels for at least another 12 months to allow for an independent body to be established to examine the payment rates (Catholic Outlook).

Around the Country

TAS: The Australian Christian Lobby has stepped up its pressure on Independent MLC Mike Gaffney, urging him to withdraw “ill-advised” remarks that he made about the influence of religious lobbyists on the issue of voluntary assisted dying in an interview with the National Secular Lobby (The Examiner, paywalled).

TAS: In a radio interview criticising Mike Gaffney, Christian Lobby head Martyn Iles has lamented what he says is a growing divide between the beliefs of people in politics who want to change society and “what the Bible says” (Vision).

TAS: Mike Gaffney MLC has defended his proposed voluntary assisted dying legislation as “robust” after Anglican Dean Reverend Richard Humphrey warned that it would be "unsafe" and lead to abuse of the elderly (The Advocate).

TAS: In response to the establishment of a new group to campaign against his voluntary assisted dying (VAD) laws, Mike Gaffney MLC said it was typical in battles over VAD for small religious-based ‘pop-up’ groups to “repeat claims that have little basis in evidence or reasonable assumptions” (The Advocate).

TAS: The national group Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Assisted Dying has sought to counter the claims of a new anti-VAD group that the text of the legislation would be too broad in terms of who could accessible the end-of-life option (The Advocate).

TAS: In an emotional plea for voluntary assisted dying laws to be introduced in Tasmania, a cancer patient who fears a slow and painful death says he is worried he will have to move to Victoria if the parliament fails to pass the legislation (The Examiner).

QLD: The Labor government has used question time to call on the Liberal-National Party to respond to allegations of intimidation made by former Currumbin MP Jann Stuckey in an interview with the National Secular Lobby (Queensland Times).

QLD: Former Liberal-National Party MP Jann Stuckey has defended comments that she made in an interview with the National Secular Lobby about the party’s shift to the religious Right, saying she stood by “everything I said in that interview” (Gold Coast Bulletin, paywalled).

SA: South Australia could become the next state to criminalise ‘gay conversion therapy’, with the state’s Labor opposition currently working on a bill to outlaw the harmful practice and deciding whether to push for a conscience vote (In Daily).

SA: Australian Christian Lobby’s Martyn Iles has slammed the push to criminalise ‘gay conversation therapy’ as a hoax and a deliberate “anti-religion dog whistle” (ACL).

VIC: Local politicians are urging members of a conservative Jewish community who have been ignoring social distancing orders to now observe the lockdown restrictions instead of attending prayer sessions, as the spread of COVID-19 worsens in the state (Australian Jewish Network).

WA: The Australian Christian Lobby is urging the City of Perth not to go ahead with cancelling a Christmas Nativity Event, arguing that, given Christians make up the majority of the Australian population, cancelling the event would threaten inclusiveness (ACL).

Commentary and Analysis

In raising the definition of ‘religion’ as being among the problems with proposed measures in Religious Discrimination Bill, lawyers Emily Wittig and Geoff Baldwin write that it’s unclear whether Satanists, witches and even atheists can be said to have honestly held religious beliefs (Mondaq).

An Australian Defence Force chaplain equates the feeling of loneliness among new military recruits at the barracks during the COVID-19 period with the story of holy men and women in the fourth century who fled to the deserts of Syria and Egypt seeking “to be alone with God” (Catholic Outlook).

With women’s access to abortion health services having improved during the pandemic period due to telehealth, Gina Rushton writes that more work is required to address the haphazard public provision of abortion and the disparities of costs between regions (The Guardian).

That's it for another week!

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