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Weekend Wrap for 30 November 2019

We headline our Weekend Wrap of news from the secular space with the dramatic developments regarding the "religious freedom" bill. There’s also plenty of news and views on voluntary assisted dying, blasphemy, mandatory reporting and gay conversion laws from the states and territories.

Don’t forget that the Weekend Wrap, which aims to help secular-minded Australians keep abreast of news, is also published on our Facebook page!

The National View

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has today announced a delay to the religious discrimination bill, with the government set to release a second draft to the public instead of introducing the bill to parliament (SMH).

On Friday, it was reported that a powerful lobby of religious groups threatened to withdraw support for the government’s proposed Religious Discrimination Bill unless further freedoms were granted to people of faith (The Age).

Opposition health spokesman Chris Bowen made a rare statement of critique from the Labor side of politics on the religious freedom bill, describing it as “friendless” and saying religious leaders in his electorate “don’t like it” (The Guardian).

Earlier in the week, Julian Burnside QC and Jane Caro, in their role as ambassadors for the National Secular Lobby, called on the Morrison government to provide secular and non-religious Australians with an equal opportunity to be consulted (The Australian).

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has argued that Labor lost the election partly by alienating Pentecostal congregations in Queensland, saying that voters in his home state didn’t like “shit being poured on religious people” (The Australian).

As reported in the previous week (and which we neglected to include in last week’s Wrap), religious groups have raised fears that they could be stripped of their charity status because of their views on same-sex marriage (The Australian).

The Prime Minister is going to extraordinary lengths to avoid answering questions as to whether he asked Hillsong pastor Brian Houston to join him at the White House, with a government department refusing eight Freedom of Information requests by the media (The Guardian).

Assisted Treasurer Stuart Robert charged taxpayers more than $2000 to attend a Hillsong conference where he delivered a lecture on how “innovative individuals” are “influencing their pillar with the message of Jesus” (Daily Mail).

The Prime Minister condemned “a new round of the age-old scourge of antisemitism” and stated that Israel “has a place in my heart” as he accepted the Jerusalem Prize from the Zionist Federation of Australia (Australian Jewish News).

Israel Folau is now seeking an increased amount in compensation as part of his wrongful dismissal case against Rugby Australia, outlining in court documents his belief that he could have earned more as a future Wallabies captain (SBS).

Around the Country

WA: The Upper House looks set to sit overnight in the final sitting week of the year, with the Labor government wanting to work through a long list of amendments on voluntary assisted dying legislation (Perth Now).

WA: Members of parliament have voiced concerns about the delay in passing voluntary assisted dying legislation, although some say there should be no rush to get the bill up before the summer break (The West Australian).

WA: Steve Walker, of Dying with Dignity WA, has criticised the unnecessary prolonging of parliamentary debate, saying it was “not okay to spin this out forever and ever with hundreds of amendments” (7 News).

QLD: Television presenter Andrew Denton has called on Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to have “the political will” to pass voluntary assisted dying laws before the next election (Brisbane Times).

QLD: A new bill introduced into parliament seeks to ban gay conversion therapy, with Health Minister Steven Miles describing the practice as having “always been immoral and unethical” (Star Observer).

VIC: Reason Party MP Fiona Patten – who is also an ambassador for the National Secular Lobby – has introduced a bill to scrap the state’s blasphemy laws (7 News).

WA: A new bill will expand mandatory reporting requirements to religious institutions in an effort to protect children from sexual abuse (WA Today).

SA: According to reports from earlier this month (and which we missed in our earlier Wrap), pro-abortion campaigners are calling on MPs to decriminalise abortion in South Australia (News).

Commentary and Analysis

Victoria’s blasphemy law violates the human right to freedom of expression and protects Christian institutions and leaders from legitimate and often necessary criticism, writes Reason Party Leader Fiona Patten (The Age).

Martyn Iles, the head of the Australian Christian Lobby, argues that religious freedom is the most crucial political issue today as it “relates directly to Christ’s call upon us to evangelise the world” (Eternity News).

Peter Kurti argues that an “unrelenting onslaught of progressive secularism” is making it harder for religious Australians to practice their faith openly and in public (The Centre for Independent Studies).

In making a case against voluntary assisted dying, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge suggests that politicians have to “look beyond” political expediency and puts forward the Catholic way of navigating end-of-life care (The Australian).

That's it for another week!

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