Churches are cashing in on the Morrison government’s JobKeeper scheme at the expense of in-need workers. That kicks off the latest edition of the Weekend Wrap, bringing you news and views from across the country on secular issues.

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

Religious ministers from large Christian churches and other religious institutions are receiving JobKeeper payments, with one Anglican bishop arguing that the government payment was "essential" in allowing priests to keep providing spiritual and pastoral care during the COVID-10 pandemic (SMH).

A senior Catholic Church employee has described as "immoral" church requests for clergy to donate part of their JobKeeper payment in order to cover a decline in revenue (ABC).

Equality advocates are using the landmark US Supreme Court anti-discrimination decision to renew their calls for the Morrison government to scratch its proposed Religious Discrimination Bill (Star Observer).

Australia’s first trans-led legal service for trans and gender diverse people says the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill is creating “fear and confusion” among its clientele, especially in relation to GP services (The Guardian).

Having been gifted a Menorah in a meeting with the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he will proudly display it, along with a collection of Judaic items, in his Canberra office (Australian Jewish News).

Cardinal George Pell has offered tips for coping with suffering and has reflected on his time in prison in an online chat with students (Catholic Weekly).

Following the passing of former Senator John Madigan, Tony Abbott shared how the devout Catholic’s faith had inspired his own during their time together in Parliament House (Catholic Weekly).

An anti-racism not-for-profit organisation has warned of a surge in antisemitic hate online during the COVID-19 pandemic, with conspiracy theories blaming Jewish people for spreading the virus (Australian Jewish News).

The Australian Catholic Medical Association has warned of “fundamental Christian anthropology” coming “under attack” and of serious consequences for Catholic schools and service providers if federal health minister Greg Hunt fails to investigate the rise in “gender confusion” cases among children (Catholic Weekly).

Around the Country

TAS: Terminally-ill Tasmanians have told how they are prepared to move to Victoria to die if the push to introduce voluntary assisted dying fails (ABC).

TAS: A Christian group advocating for voluntary assisted dying has slammed the Australian Christian Lobby for fear-mongering tactics in its opposition to the proposed voluntary assisted dying legislation (The Examiner).

QLD: Several Labor MPs, including Jackie Trad, are stepping up pressure on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to rethink her position on voluntary assisted dying and to take action before the upcoming state election (Courier Mail, paywalled).

VIC: While 400 applications have been lodged by terminally-ill Victorians since the state's landmark assisted dying laws came into effect a year ago, a shortage of some specialists across is proving to be a barrier to some in accessing the end-of-life option (SMH).

SA: A new survey shows that the vast majority of South Australians support the decriminalisation of abortion and the need for women to be protected by safe zones around clinics (Adelaide Advertiser).

WA: LGBTIQ+ advocates are calling on the McGowan government to review special religious exemptions to workplace discrimination law in the wake of the landmark US Supreme Court decision on sexuality and gender identity, arguing that the state’s laws are among the worst in Australia (Out in Perth).

NSW: Providers of Special Religious Education (SRE) in public schools say they are excited to be heading back into the classroom with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, with one saying that kids whose faith has been shaken “can again hear they are unconditionally loved, with a love stronger than death” (Eternity News).

WA: Outspoken pastor Margaret Court has criticised the state government for its “double standard” in allowing Black Lives Matter rallies to go ahead while restrictions have remained in place for church attendances (WA Today).

ACT: The Canberra-Goulburn Catholic Archdiocese has scrapped the use of collection plates in the wake of the territory government's new hygiene requirements, moving instead to a high-tech collection method (CathNews).

Commentary and Analysis

It’s no accident that priests are being covered by the JobKeeper scheme but academics are not, argues this editorial by The Saturday Paper.

Michael Bradley points out the “deep, rich, shameless hypocrisy of the Catholic Church” in putting its hand out for the JobKeeper payment after years of denying that its priests were employees under the Ellis Defence (Crikey).

In this radio interview, media personality and voluntary assisted dying (VAD) advocate Andrew Denton blames the rise of Christian conservatives within the Liberal Party as being partly to blame for the stalling of VAD laws around Australia (The Briefing podcast).

Natalie and Jacqui Gray, who lost their mother last year to cancer, talk about the many other “heartbreaking” stories they have heard during their community campaign to build support for voluntary assisted dying in Tasmania (ABC).

In reviewing how Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying law has performed in its first year, Aisha Dow and Melissa Cunningham write that two men’s cases show how vastly different the personal experiences have been (SMH).

Melbourne-based GP Nick Carr writes that Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying law has at times been too restrictive for his patients (Crikey).

Almost 30 years after supporting Dr Phillip Nitschke’s efforts to legalise assisted dying in the Northern Territory, one woman is now coordinating efforts in Tasmania’s north-west to galvanise support for the proposed law, writes Meg Powell (The Advocate).

So restless for reform are the people in the pews, they are exposing the deceptive dealings at the top of the Australian Catholics Bishops Conference in a push for reform, writes Gail Freyne (John Menadue blog).

John Warhurst examines the “major historical fault line” between the peak bodies that vie to speak for the Catholic Church in Australia (Eureka Street).

Blogger Mikey Bear has called out his local federal member of parliament Gladys Liu for only applauding faith-based organisations in a speech to parliament about mental health and suicide-prevention services.

That's it for another week!

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