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CHRISTIANS WARN OF CENSORSHIP AS CONVERSION THERAPY BANNED IN VICTORIA

By Australian Newsletter

Christians in Victoria are fearing for their religious freedom after the legislature voted to ban so-called conversion therapy. The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill criminalises practices seeking to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Christians have voiced concern over a subclause making it an offence to carry out “a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism.” Church leaders in the state fear that they could fall foul of the law simply for offering prayer or counselling to someone struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity. Under the Bill, conducting suppression practices carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years or a $10,000 fine.

Ahead of the vote, dozens of faith leaders raised their opposition in an open letter to Daniel Andrews, the Premier of Victoria. “Religious organisations, parents and families, faith-based schools, ministries, and other individuals will face scrutiny, investigation, censorship, significant jail terms and large fines for exercising their religious duty to teach or advise individuals who request support to maintain adherence to religious constructs of sexuality and gender,” they wrote. The Bill recently passed the legislative council by 29 votes to nine after a 12-hour debate. Martyn Iles, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, said the Bill “basically criminalises the truth”. “It takes those truths about marriage, gender, sex and family, which are part of creation itself, and it says that those ideas, the expression of them, the living out of them can become criminal acts.

Iles went on to say “There’s not many laws that I can say that about. Christians must continue to support and pray for those who come to them for help, even if it means breaking the law. I want to say something that’s going to sound a little bit radical but it’s so true, especially in this case. We must live as though this Bill doesn’t exist,” he said.

Source: Christian Today Australia

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HILLSONG LEAD PASTORS TO STEP BACK TO MAKE WAY FOR YOUNGER LEADERS

By Australian Newsletter

Brian and Bobbie Houston are making way for a new generation of younger leaders to take the helm of Hillsong Church. Houston, 67, said at Hillsong’s recent Vision Sunday service that he had been “doing a lot of soul-searching and praying” about the future of the church and decided it was time for change. He said the couple, who have led the church for 38 years, are “definitely not retiring” but gradually handing over the reins to others, starting with Gary and Cathy Clarke, lead pastors of Hillsong London, who will move into a global leadership role over the next two years. Houston said “The Hillsong movement has grown so rapidly it has become clear to us we need to put a whole lot more structure into what we’re doing globally. It has become “virtually impossible” and “unsustainable” for us to manage the international church by ourselves.

“I want to look at ways that we can share that load and over these next couple of years heading up to that church being 40 here,” he said. “I would like to really put in place younger leaders. Younger leaders here in Australia and younger leaders around the globe.” The decision follows a challenging time for the international Hillsong family, with its New York campus pastor, Carl Lentz, being fired last November over adultery. His ousting was followed by an internal investigation into claims of financial abuse and inappropriate sexual relationships between staff and volunteers at the New York church.  The probe closed last week with an admission of failings but the findings are not to be made public. “We’re definitely not retiring,” Houston said. “We’ll be around but I do think it’s the right time to look at a whole new season.”

Source: Christian Today Australia

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SOUTH AUSTRALIA PASSES ABORTION TILL BIRTH LAW

By Australian Newsletter

Abortion to birth has been written into law in South Australia. Unborn babies can now be disposed of on demand up to 22 weeks and six days in South Australia, and under certain conditions they can be aborted right up to the moment of birth. The horrific legislation passed 29 to 15 last week after some 20 hours of debate. Fortunately several amendments were made to the Bill before it was passed. These were that there is a ban on sex-selection abortions and a requirement for counselling, as well as information on abortion risks and alternatives such as adoption. Babies born alive after an abortion will now be given the same care as other babies after birth.

The result of last week’s vote should prompt some sober reflection for our society and for the church specifically. Five thousand people “Walked for Life” in opposition to the abortion legislation. Many Pastors spoke up on this issue in ways they have not in the past. Many marched in support of life, again an unprecedented effort. Many believers are now waking up to the evil unfolding in our midst, but this time the church’s response has been too little, too late. Those who were active are to be commended. But the fight for life needs to be embraced by the whole church: countless believers still need to be aroused.

Source: Compiled by APN from various sources

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VACCINES: A MATTER OF INDIVIDUAL CONSCIENCE

By Australian Newsletter

Editor’s note:  With the rollout of vaccines against COVID 19 imminent in Australia, all of us will soon be required to make a decision as to whether we wish to be vaccinated or not.  This article is not designed to address any expressed safety concerns surrounding the vaccines, we leave that to the medical experts, but to the ethical concerns that have been discussed in Christian circles. We know from correspondence received that many of our members have a keen interest in the subject, some with minds already made up on the subject. It is not our intention nor desire to question or challenge any views people hold on the matter as our position is, as our heading indicates, it is a matter of individual conscience.

We are grateful to Martyn Iles from the Australian Christian Lobby who has done some study on the issue and has produced the following article to assist people come to their decision, based on as many facts as possible that he has been able to glean on the subject. The Australian Prayer Network has no expertise in this matter and in re-producing this article we are acting in good faith but are totally reliant on the efforts of Martyn Iles as to the accuracy of the information it contains. We will not therefore engage in discussion on the issues raised as our purpose in publishing the article is not to state or take a position on the subject but simply to provide facts that will allow our readers to make up their own minds on the matter. 

As praying people we encourage you to pray that people will seriously consider all facts related to this issue and be guided by the Holy Spirit to the decision that is right for them. Pray too that people will respect the decisions that other people make in good conscience, whether that be to receive or reject the vaccinations. Pray that Governments will, as far as possible, also respect individual decisions recognising that they also have the responsibility to keep all people safe from being infected by the COVID virus. 

Martyn Iles writes:

I am constantly asked, so here are some thoughts and explanations on vaccines. Firstly I am grateful for the technology that makes them possible, and accept that they are generally safe. But there are qualifications. The main one relates to those vaccines which had an association, during their development, with foetal cell lines. In Australia, this includes the MMR, Chickenpox, Hepatitis A, and Rabies vaccines. A person’s attitude to these vaccines is a matter of individual conscience that ought to be respected. You may wonder which way your conscience ought to go – the following information may help:

Vaccine development requires a cellular environment. Companies buy cells “off the shelf” for this purpose, called “cell lines.” They have names which are combinations of letters and numbers. The cells are not ingredients in the vaccine; they are tools used during the research and development process.

But some have raised the question – where did these cell lines come from?  In each case, they descended from an original cell. That cell was replicated once, twice, three times… and to infinity, over many years. These replicated cells, descended from an original cell at some point in history, are the “cell line”. In some cases, the original cell was from plant matter. In others, from an animal. Sometimes, they come from human tissue. Then, there are cases where the original cell was from an aborted foetus. There are two or three popular foetal cell lines which originated from abortions in or around the 1960s. They each came from a single abortion. Their use does not result in more abortions. The abortions were not for the purpose of creating the cell line.

These cell lines are used so extensively in biotech and medicine that they are ubiquitous. We will all encounter and probably use multiple products developed with their help during our lifetimes. Most theologians, Christian bioethicists, and all church denominations who have publically spoken to the matter, do not consider it sinful to use products, including vaccines, which have had an association with these foetal cell lines. They make that deduction because it does not amount to complicity in abortion, nor endorsement of abortion. In other words, taking these vaccines does not cause or support abortions.

Whilst I have accepted this view for a while, I must confess to harbouring uncertainty in more recent times, along – I think – with anyone who really cares about the pro-life cause. Taking an affected vaccine may not be sinful per se, but I can see that it is a serious matter of individual conscience. On the one hand, the association is incredibly remote – materially and historically. On the other hand, an abortion is a serious matter. The situation becomes more complex, because there is no completely ‘ethical’ COVID-19 vaccine. (Some time ago, we indicated that the Prime Minister’s office had confirmed there would be an ‘ethical’ alternative vaccine. Sadly, this was the UQ candidate which was abandoned during the testing phase.)

Pfizer’s is the best from an ethical standpoint, but not perfect. (Because it does not rely on a foetal cell line for its development or manufacture… they only made use of a foetal cell line to conduct some trials.) I believe that this is reason enough not to make the COVID-19 vaccines compulsory. This conscience issue is not fanciful or baseless. It should be respected in cases where it is genuine.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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IDEOLOGY STRANGLES UNIVERSITY COURSES AUDIT FINDS

By Australian Newsletter

The study of humanities at top-ranked universities has been overrun by identity politics, sparking accusations that academics pushing ideological projects are fuelling division within the community.  Themes of class, race and gender dominate history, literature, politics and social studies courses at the expense of traditional disciplinary content, according to an audit of Bachelor of Arts subjects that 10 universities offered last year. Conducted by the Institute of Public Affairs, the audit found that 572 subjects, or 44 per cent of the 1181 subjects analysed, were concerned with identity politics, while a further 380 subjects featured critical race theory — a US-born framework for studying race and power responsible for coining the concepts “white privilege” and “structural racism”.

In contrast, a mere quarter of English literature subjects involved the study of great works comprising the Western canon, while just 23 per cent of history subjects dealt with the history of Western civilisation ranging from Ancient Greece to the modern world. In the political sciences, 10 per cent of subjects offered taught students about the history of ideas and political thought. Freedom, a key tenet of the study of social sciences, was also in just 10 per cent of the 524 possible subjects. IPA director Bella d’Abrera, who carried out the review, said the findings could have devastating consequences, pointing to the impact of critical race theory on interracial tensions in the US, which has spilled over into violent rioting.

Dr d’Abrera said divisive ideologies were already having an impact on Australian society, evidenced by the perennial controversy around Australia Day and campaigns for the removal of public statues associated with European settlement. An obsession with identity politics had divided Australians according to characteristics such as class, race and gender, she said, “preventing us from living together harmoniously as a cohesive society”. “Academics have turned the humanities into a political project which seeks to replace the values and institutions of Western civilisation with a fatal combination of nihilism and anarchy,” Dr d’Abrera said. “The concept of a shared humanity has been removed and replaced with a divisive ideology which pits us against each other on the basis of our immutable characteristics.”

The audit, on the back of Dr d’Abrera’s previous analysis of the study of history at the nation’s tertiary institutions, follows a recent move by the federal government to raise fees for humanities courses in a bid to steer young people to study nursing, mathematics, science and engineering where there are greater employment opportunities. Dr d’Abrera said the humanities had become “homogenised” to the extent that it was “almost impossible to differentiate between them”. “There is no discernible difference, for example, between sociology and English literature or philosophy and sociology,” she said. “No matter the subject, the same worldview, which is that of identity politics and critical race theory, is repeated throughout all disciplines.”

Subjects captured in the audit included Macquarie University’s history subject “Global History of Sport”, where students examine the meaning of sport across “class, racial, gender, and ethnic groups”, including “the rise of female, LGBT, and transgender athletes”. At the University of Melbourne, philosophy students taking “Race and Gender: Philosophical Issues” are asked to consider if race and gender are “biological” or “socially constructed” categories. Even the study of children’s literature is framed through an ideological lens, with one course examining the canonical works only to veer into looking at “the ideological implications of the adult interests vested in the production of children’s literature, and how the genre works to socialise children into dominant views about gender, race and class”.

Simon Haines, chief executive of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, which is sponsoring great books-style courses at several universities, said it was concerning if students were being offered little choice but to study history, literature and other humanities disciplines “exclusively or primarily through a limited number of prisms, such as race, class and sexuality”.  “This is not because great works are not affected by such issues, but because they, like human life itself, are about so much more … Academics can do their students’ understanding of life and our past a tremendous disservice if they appear to evaluate the huge range of human experience using relatively crude ideological and conceptual templates, which can often seem to be as activist as they are scholarly,” Professor Haines said.

Campion College president Paul Morrissey, whose private university offers liberal arts degrees, said infiltration of identity politics into the humanities was a worrying trend. “Disciplines like literature and history should be studied for their own sake, using a wide range of interpretative lenses,” Dr Morrissey said. “If everything about our past, especially our history and art, is reduced to a contemporary ideology of identity this will have a broader negative impact on our society. One of the problems with identity politics is that it has an innate suspicion and disdain of western history and culture writ large.” Australian Catholic University senior research fellow Kevin Donnelly said academic freedom, rational debate and the search for wisdom and truth had disappeared from the university sector only to be replaced by “cultural-left ideology”.

“One of the greatest threats to liberty and freedom is the fact that neo-Marxist-inspired mind control and group think dominate our universities,” Dr Donnelly said. “It‘s time universities were brought to account given the millions of dollars spent every year on subjects riven with destructive and nihilistic identity politics and cancel culture.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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GROG AND DOPE FUEL OUTBACK FELONIES

By Australian Newsletter

Extra police have had to have been sent to Numbulwar on the Gulf of Carpenteria, where leaders are grappling with petrol sniffing and the arrival of “frightening amounts” of alcohol and cannabis. Unrest in the Northern Territory community of 687 people has coincided with a series of crimes. Community leaders have called a meeting of residents to discuss concerns, including the safety of nurses who were recently barricaded in their house while people threw rocks and made threats. The community has a health clinic, a school and a police station. Locals believe some children in the community have recently been sniffing petrol and getting into petty crime, including damaging the health clinic vehicle. Northern Territory Police have responded to the crisis in Numbulwar.

Further south in the Central Australia community of Yuendumu, additional officers have been working with local leaders to deal with a spate of crimes by juveniles over the January holiday period. Recent break-ins at the homes of teachers, police and health clinic staff at Yuendumu have prompted one health worker to leave town. The possibility that other health clinic staff could follow has caused deep concern inside the NT government. The last time the clinic closed was in November 2019 when health clinic workers were evacuated in response to a series of break-ins at the nurses’ quarters. It meant there were no health workers in Yuendumu a few hours later when 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker was shot dead by NT Police Constable Zachary Rolfe.

Walker, who had brandished an axe at officers a few days earlier, was killed as police tried to arrest him. Walker stabbed Constable Rolfe with scissors in the moments before the first shot was fired, according to evidence presented at a committal hearing in September. Constable Rolfe has been charged with murder and will stand trial in Darwin in July. His lawyer has indicated he intends to plead not guilty. In a media statement about the recent troubles at Yuendumu, NT Police confirmed it had sent extra police to the community of 760 people to deal with the outbreak of juvenile crime. Police have charged two youths following a number of recent property offences. Superintendent Jody Nobbs said: “Additional officers had been sent to the community to support local police in their investigations.

“Police have been conducting reassurance patrols and are working with stakeholders to ensure continued provision of services to the community and as a result, the two youths were arrested and there have been no further incidents since Christmas.  This recent spate of offending has been committed by a very small cohort of young people who have been identified and are being dealt with according to the law.” While the youths are due to appear in court at a later date, at least some young offenders have also been dealt with by adults in the community. Children who stole an ambulance in Yuendumu were caught when they got trapped due to heavy rain. According to locals, when the children were brought home, men in the community disciplined them according to local custom.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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VICTORIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES DRACONIAN LAW ON GENDER TRANSITION

By Australian Newsletter

The Victorian government’s Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 was passed last week by the upper house, 27 votes to 9. Not one of the reasoned amendments were passed, which leaves parents with children who are exploring their gender identity and, doctors, psychiatrists or psychologists who provide medical care for these children, at risk of complaints of change or suppression practice if they do not affirm and support gender transition. Children and young people presenting with gender dysphoria are left with only one treatment option – to transition gender. Prohibited actions under the Bill include “carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer-based practice”. The prohibition applies whether or not the subject consented to the prayer-based activity. The penalty is up to 10 years’ in jail or an enormous fine.

It is also of serious concern for any Australian writing, discussing, teaching or debating ideas and theories around sexuality, gender, transgenderism or biological sex. The concerns of the Victorian AMA, the RANZCP and the Law Institute of Victoria as well as of faith leaders were ignored. The Bill was also opposed by gay & lesbian groups, feminist legal centres among others. The Andrews government failed to listen to any voice of concern. Only two Liberal/National Party members voted against the bill with all others supporting the Labor Party in voting the Bill into law. In addition to the two Liberal members others who voted against the Bill were the Shooters & Fishers, the Derryn Hinch Justice Party (2), Sustainable Australia, the Liberal Democrats (2) and one Independent.

Source: Australian Family Association

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CALL TO TEACH SATANISM IN QUEENSLAND SCHOOLS REJECTED BY MP

By Australian Newsletter

A call to include Satanist lessons in Religious Instruction in Queensland State Schools is the latest stunt by former Sex Party candidate, Robin Bristow. Queensland parents have applauded Queensland Education Minister, Grace Grace, for her swift response. “Satanism has never been taught in Queensland schools, and it never will be on my watch.” It is very clear that Bristow has no interest in Religious Instruction, rather he is opposed to religion. Bristow has stated that he is not a believer in the supernatural. He regularly refers to his followers as the ‘heathen,’ again, the very definition of which is ‘a person who does not belong to a widely held religion.’ For the purposes of Australian Law, a religion must include belief in the supernatural and a belief or practice cannot be properly characterised as a religion if it is no more than a parody of a religion or a sham.

Australian Christian Lobby’s Queensland Director, Wendy Francis, has thanked Ms Grace for her ongoing support of Religious Instruction and her rejection of this attempt at parody of religious belief, something that is very important to the majority of Australian families.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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I4GIVE DAY LAUNCHED TO MARK ANNIVERSARY OF THE TRAGIC DEATH OF 4 CHILDREN

By Australian Newsletter

A year on from the tragic car crash that killed three of their children, Danny and Leila Abdallah urged others to embrace forgiveness as they marked the anniversary of the four children’s deaths. Last Monday 1 February, i4give Day took place to coincide with the anniversary of the deaths of Antony, Angelina and Sienna Abdallah and their cousin Veronique Sakr. In the aftermath of the crash, Mrs Abdallah told reporters “I think in my heart I forgive him” – referring to the intoxicated driver of the vehicle who pleaded guilty to four charges of manslaughter in October, last year. Now, in partnership with the NSW Government, Mrs Abdallah is urging others to honour the legacy of her children by incorporating forgiveness into their own lives. In an interview to launch i4give Day, she said “Forgiveness is very important, not only for us but for everyone.”

“Forgiveness is the way to healing” Mrs Abduallah said. Wearing a necklace with the initials of her deceased children, she acknowledged the outpouring of support from the public following their deaths. “Everyone was touched by it,” Mrs Abdallah said. The Abdallah and Sakr families hope that i4give Day will keep the memories of their children alive, and also be a chance for people to consider the power of forgiveness. Veronique Sakr’s mother Bridget said that she hopes the children’s deaths allow people to “mend bridges with estranged family members and move forward, to love each other in peace and harmony”. Mrs Abdallah echoed that sentiment. “We all get hurt in our life. But then the question is, ‘Is it worth it?’… the pain and regret that you have to live with for the rest of your life,” she said.

The family also spoke about the pain of their first Christmas following the children’s deaths. Mrs Abdallah said her family wanted to be left alone to cry and pray together. But for the sake of their surviving children, they had decided to put up a Christmas tree and get them two presents each. “One from Antony, Angelina and Sienna, sent from heaven. And one from Santa”.  In a radio interview on Christian station Hope 103.2, Mr Abdallah also revealed that the family’s faith has shaped their attitude of forgiveness. “Forgiveness is the core of our faith,” he said. “Christ forgave us for our sins, so who am I not to forgive?” “We choose not to have anger and resentment and bitterness.” Mr Abdallah said that he and his wife wanted to model forgiveness for their surviving children. “Kids don’t do what you say, they do what you do” he said.

“We choose not to have anger and resentment and bitterness. This is the biggest cross someone could carry. We’ve lost our kids. We had to accept the unacceptable.” But in the midst of their grief, Mr Abdallah said they have found peace in forgiveness. “You don’t know what Christ’s peace is until you forgive.” Mr Abdallah said that he hopes i4give Day will prompt the public to “reflect on their own lives and say, ‘These people were able to forgive in the most atrocious of conditions’. They can look at themselves and say, ‘What am I fighting over?’” Adding that forgiveness is not exclusive to Christians, he encouraged the greater public to think about their relationship with loved ones. “Ring each other and reconcile,” he urged. The i4give website will direct the public towards resources to help those dealing with grief, as well as trauma counselling services.

Source: Hope 103.2FM

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ANNIVERSARY OF FIRST CHRISTIAN SERVICE IN AUSTRALIA TO BE CELEBRATED

By Australian Newsletter

At 6:30pm on Wednesday 3rd February 2021 at St Philip’s Anglican Church, Rev Dr John Dickson will be speaking on the same text as Rev Richard Johnson preached on at the first Christian service held in this land, Psalm 116:12. ‘What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me?’ Rev. Johnson’s actual Bible and Prayer Book used on that occasion will also be on display. The Service will be Live Streamed at https://www.youtube.com/c/churchhillanglican/live  Please join early at 6:20PM AEDT. The current church houses Australia’s oldest parish. St Philip’s Church has associations with the spiritual development of the colony of NSW and with a number of prominent people including Governor Arthur Phillip, the Reverend Richard Johnson, Governor Hunter and Edmund Blacket.

The first two churches were named for Sir Arthur Phillip, but the current church was named in honour of St Philip the Evangelist. The foundation stone for this building (the third St Philip’s) was laid on 1 May 1848, that being the feast day of St Philip and St James. In addition to the celebration of the first Christian service, National Christian Heritage Sunday gives opportunity for Churches across Australia to celebrate the Gospel of Jesus Christ arriving on Australia’s shores. Australia’s first minister, Rev. Richard Johnson, arrived with the first fleet on the 20th January 1788. Then, on 3rd February 1788, Rev. Johnson held the first Christian service in Australia. National Christian Heritage Sunday is celebrated across Australia on the first Sunday in February each year. The date for 2021 will be Sunday 7th February.

For further Information on National Christian Heritage Sunday go to www.nchs.net.au  To read more about Australia’s early Christian history go to The_Hand_of_God.pdf (chr.org.au)

Source: National Alliance of Christian Leaders

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VICTORIAN PREMIERS CHANGE AND SUPPRESSION BILL RHETORIC DOES NOT FIT THE BILL

By Australian Newsletter

Editors comments:  We have devoted this entire newsletter to just one subject, such is the importance of the matter being reported on. The two articles cover the same subject , but from slightly different perspectives. Prayer is urgently needed if Victoria is going to be stopped from going down a path that has very serious implications for the free practice of the Christian faith in that state down the track.

The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Prohibition Bill 2020 passed in the Lower House in Victoria. No MPs were brave enough to oppose this government juggernaut. There are about 30 Liberal/National MPs and most of them understand how dangerous this bill is to parental rights and religious freedom. Yet they did not vote against it. This shows how severe the LGBTQ intimidation and misinformation really are. It will now be debated in the Upper House in early February. There will be no change to the outcome unless there is considerable uprising by the Church and by parents. To indicate what’s at stake, a child who is too young to drive or have a tattoo will be allowed to irreversibly change their gender. If a parent says no, they will be deemed ‘family violence offenders’ and will be subject to restraining orders and up to 10 years in jail.

Pastors will be severely restricted in what they can say or do when a LGBTQ person seeks their help. A same-sex attracted person who wants to live according to the Bible will not be able to request prayer or group support. “On what basis can the government impose restrictions on prayer?” Archbishop Comensoli rightly asks. Soon, praying for LGBTQ struggles could be a crime. All Australians are asked to please pray that MPs, churches, and parents will have the courage to stand against the LGBTQ agenda and protect our freedoms. There is a yawning gap between Daniel Andrews’ extreme rhetoric and the actual content of the Victorian Government’s ‘change and suppression’ bill, according to the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL). “If the Premier’s ‘change and suppression’ bill merely banned so-called ‘bigoted quackery,’ then nobody would stand against it,” said ACL managing director Martyn Iles.

“The Premier’s rhetoric is extreme and insulting because the Bill clearly bans perfectly innocent conduct by Victorians, including parents who want what’s best for their kids.” “A Victorian parent who does not think irreversible hormone replacement therapy is best for their child is not a bigoted quack, yet that is what the bill bans, on the threat of jail. “A Victorian who prays for someone at their request is not a bigoted quack, yet that is what the bill explicitly bans, on the threat of jail” Iles said. “If Mr Andrews wants to ban bigoted quackery, he should go back to the drawing board, this bill would jail parents, pastors and doctors for perfectly innocent conduct. If Mr Andrews truly believes what he says, then he must also believe that 73% of Victorians are bigoted quacks because polling is showing they do not agree with the bans imposed by this bill” said Mr Iles. ACL joins parents, church leaders and others in urging the Liberal Party and crossbench to reject the bill in the Legislative Council.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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PRAYER UNDER THREAT IN VICTORIA

By Australian Newsletter

Totalitarianism is becoming more of a reality each day in Victoria. The government wants to outlaw prayer for gender issues and penalise anyone, including parents, from providing wise counsel, even to their own children. Legislation before the Victorian parliament will make the act of prayer a criminal offence in some circumstances. Yet in an era when it is cool to self-identify as anything but a Christian, hardly anyone is making a fuss. The pretext for the bill is transphobia, a contagion for which the Andrews government believes the church is a super spreader. It will be illegal to counsel a person to change or suppress their chosen gender identity. Prohibited actions include “carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer-based practice”. The prohibition applies whether or not the subject consented to the prayer-based activity. The penalty is up to 10 years’ imprisonment or an enormous fine.

The government is encouraging anyone to do the dobbing, even if they are not personally affected and even if the parties involved consent to the prayer or counselling. It is not just church leaders who might find themselves in strife for failing to affirm a person’s sexual or gender identity. Parents are in trouble, too. The Human Rights Law Alliance warns that “parents who struggle with their 13-year-old daughter’s sudden presentation of gender confusion and who oppose chemical and surgical practices to transition appearance to that of a male, could be made criminals and face jail time”. There has been little publicity about the bill. Only the propaganda of the activists gets a voice while the consultative process remains heavily biased toward the ideological agenda. Binary spokeswoman, Kirralie Smith, said Nick Cater expressed it best when he said.

We should be encouraging minors to seek a second, third or fourth opinion from doctors, priests, pastors and other professionals before embarking on a path that could alter their bodies irreversibly with a limited chance of improving their mental health. Yet the Victorian law will make it illegal to do anything other than pat them on the head. The issue here is not the maturity of minors, but the intellectual immaturity of adults who exploit teenage anxiety for ideological ends.

Source: Binary

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TASMANIAN VOLUNTARY ASSISTED DYING ADVOCATE ON “UNBIASED” PANEL

By Australian Newsletter

A key member of the “independent and objective” panel advising Tasmanian MPs on Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) has a long history of strong advocacy for the reform, prompting claims that the body lacks balance. University of Tasmania law professor Margaret Otlowski is one of four review panel members whose expert report will help shape the state’s final voluntary assisted dying law, which is set to pass parliament in March. The panel was requested by Premier Peter Gutwein, a declared supporter of the private member’s bill, to provide “independent and objective” advice to MPs ahead of the vote. This advice is to include a comparison to legislation in other jurisdictions, an “objective analysis” of safeguards, the interrelationship between VAD and palliative care, and stakeholder feedback. Opponents of the bill have said they are concerned Professor Otlowski, as the key legal expert on the panel, has been a consistent and firm supporter of VAD.

A check of the public record shows the professor, whose integrity and expertise are not questioned, has made submissions to various inquiries in support of the concept of VAD. She even was credited with helping to draft previous, doomed Tasmanian VAD legislation in 2013. The professor, a pro vice-chancellor, has publicly dismissed some of the key concerns raised against VAD, including in relation to the adequacy of safeguards adopted elsewhere, and appeared in public as part of a group of VAD supporters in 2013. Live and Die Well, representing opponents of the bill put forward by independent upper house MP Mike Gaffney, said a second legal expert should be appointed to the panel to balance Professor Otlowski’s pro-VAD views. “Professor Otlowski has a 25-year track record as a euthanasia advocate,” group spokesman Ben Smith said.

“Professor Otlowski’s many parliamentary submissions display a dismissive attitude in respect to the risks of euthanasia legislation for vulnerable people, so her views appear fixed. “It is critical that there is a balance of legal views on the panel so that people will have confidence that the issues they raise in their submissions will get a full and fair hearing and consideration.  Professor Otlowski declined to comment, saying that the panel members had agreed among themselves not to speak to the news media during their deliberations on the euthanasia legislation.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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CLOSE OUTCOME SHINES LIGHT ON CRUCIAL 2021 ABORTION VOTE IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA

By Australian Newsletter

Those who care for the vulnerable, viable babies and little unborn girls shone a bright light in the South Australian (SA) Upper House, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said whilst praising the Hons Clare Scriven, Nicola Centofanti and Dennis Hood for contributions on the abortion to birth bill that will illuminate the Lower House debate in 2021. Mr Christopher Brohier, Australian Christian Lobby’s SA Director said, “Sadly their efforts were not enough. The Upper House voted to allow abortion to birth 12 votes to 9 and rejected an amendment which would have banned gender selection abortion 11 votes to 10.”  “Members had before them an Attorney-General’s Office fact sheet which said in relation for late term abortions:  ‘In later term terminations, either an induction of labour or surgery will be used. If induction of labour is the chosen method of termination, the most usual outcome in this situation is that the baby will be stillborn. In this instance, palliative care is offered, the baby born is wrapped in a blanket and the mother is given the opportunity to hold the baby as it dies. In some instances, in late termination feticide is undertaken which means the baby will be stillborn.’

“MLCs knew they were voting to allow babies to be born and left to die or to sanction the in utero killing of living unborn children, which is feticide, yet they did so!” Mr Brohier said the final words should be left to the Hon David Ridgway MLC, who in the last speech of the debate said, “I have listened to the debate and listened to the amendments but mostly the ones I have supported have been lost. The one I wanted to make particular comment about was the Hon. Mr Hood’s gender selection amendment. That was a very close vote in the end but I think it demonstrates to me that this chamber really has not had the health and wellbeing in mind of either the mother or the child when they were not prepared to support the Hon. Mr Hood’s amendment about gender selection.” “He is right. ACL calls on the Lower House to reject abortion to birth when the bill is debated there in 2021.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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UNIVERSITIES SLOW TO SIGN CODE OF FREEDOM

By Australian Newsletter

Only nine of the nation’s 42 universities have fully embraced a model code to protect free speech on campus, as a major government review pushes vice-chancellors to lead on promoting and safeguarding academic freedom. Elite Group of Eight universities, Monash University, the Australian National University (ANU) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW),  are also among 12 institutions shamed for either failing to adopt the code or not completing their plans to align with the academic freedom charter. After getting hold of the review by ex-Deakin University vice chancellor Sally Walker, UNSW hit back and said its academic freedom policies were more liberal than the government-endorsed free speech charter.

The universities praised for fully embracing the code are the Australian Catholic University, La Trobe University, RMIT University, Torrens University, the University of Newcastle, the University of Queensland, the University of the Sunshine Coast, the University of Sydney and the University of Western Australia. In the review commissioned by Education Minister Dan Tehan, Professor Walker recommended all tertiary governing bodies make an annual statement on how they are prioritising free speech. in August  Professor Walker was tasked with investigating whether universities are in alignment with the free speech code devised by former High Court chief justice Robert French. Mr Tehan said universities needed to adopt the model code by the end of last year.

“By fully adopting the French model code, universities can send a strong message to students, staff and the community about their values and commitment to freedom of speech and academic freedom,” he said. A UNSW spokesman said Professor Walker’s report failed to say that the university had not signed up because its policy is more advanced. “UNSW is totally committed to academic freedom and freedom of speech and our existing policies and procedures go further than the model code’s requirements, which impose certain limits,” he said. “UNSW’s position is clear and unambiguous: freedom of expression at UNSW is no different to freedom of speech across Australia. The only constraint that we place on freedom of speech is the law.”

The report recommends that free speech should become a regular feature of staff training and meetings.  Mr Tehan expressed hope that universities will agree to include progress on adopting the code in their annual reports. Professor Walker said that universities should all adopt a single, overarching policy on free speech and vice-chancellors had to lead on safeguarding freedom. “Universities that adopted a single, overarching code or policy have addressed academic freedom and freedom of speech in a more authoritative manner,” she said. “I have recommended that the sector develop more transparent reporting arrangements and a heightened role for governing bodies, but university leaders have to provide the day to day leadership to create an environment where freedom of speech and academic freedom are understood and supported.”

Professor Walker’s review comes after a year of bruising free speech controversies on Australian campuses. UNSW apologised in August after it took down a tweet linking to an article advocating UN action on human rights violations in Hong Kong, which offended Chinese law students at the university and was attacked in the Chinese government-owned newspaper Global Times. University of Queensland is also facing defamation action from student Drew Pavlou, who claims he was suspended for organising anti-China protests on campus and questioning Chinese influence at the university. The university disputes this. The Walker Review found six universities had not aligned with the French Code, including UNSW and Monash, and six universities had not finalised their moves to apply the charter.

An ANU spokesman said the university was working to fully align with the code within weeks. “!n 2018, and well before the French Review, ANU reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to academic freedom with our statement on academic freedom. Our then Chancellor, Professor the Hon Gareth Evans, worked on the French Review,” he said. We are now in the process of ensuring the spirit and substance of the French Model is embedded in and aligns with all our relevant policies.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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SCOTT MORRISON URGED TO PRIORITISE RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS

By Australian Newsletter

Australia’s faith leaders are urging Scott Morrison to put the implementation of a Religious Discrimination Act at the top of his political agenda this year, warning their congregations would hold the Prime Minister to his election pledge once COVID-19 passes. Mr Morrison’s commitments to deliver protections for faith-based businesses, schools, hospitals, aged care homes and community organisations have remained stalled for 12 months after the government was forced to prioritise its responses to the pandemic and bushfire recovery. Catholic, Anglican and other faith leaders said work on a Religious Discrimination Act (RDA) must begin as early as February when federal parliament returned from its summer break.

Some religious leaders argue COVID-19 restrictions, forcing the temporary closures and caps on congregations at churches, mosques and synagogues, had made religious protections more vital than ever. Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli said the pandemic had shown parliaments and public servants were “ignorant” in their approaches to people of faith. “I’m puzzled as to where this is going now. Matters of religious freedoms and protections are things that need to be grappled with by both major parties,” Archbishop Comensoli said.  “The time of COVID has shown at the level of parliaments, the level of the public service, there is significant ignorance around religious life. A number of decisions made in a number of states are some examples of that growing ignorance.”

As the nation entered COVID-19 lockdown in March, Attorney-General Christian Porter quietly delayed the Australian Law Reform Commission review of the framework of religious exemptions in anti-discrimination legislation. It was the second delay to the key Coalition election commitment, which was intended to legislate religious freedoms in the wake of the same-sex marriage vote. Mr Porter has said the government was not focusing on an RDA until the pandemic was over. “The government will revisit its legislative program as the situation develops, and bring the religious discrimination bill forward at an appropriate time,” Mr Porter said. Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies said the delays in Canberra had to stop. “The federal government should make this a priority as soon as the parliament returns to normal operations,” he said.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry chief executive Peter Wertheim, who has long advocated federal protections for religious minorities, said he was willing to wait another election cycle to ensure the RDA was not politically divisive. After suffering swings in traditionally safe western Sydney seats at last year’s election, right-faction Labor MPs are agitating for the party to adopt strong support for religious freedoms in the party’s policy platform, which will be finalised at the ALP national conference due before Easter. The swings were linked to Labor MPs support for same sex marriage despite a swathe of multicultural seats voting No in the plebiscite, and Bill Shorten’s election campaign misstep where he called on Mr Morrison to say whether he believed gay people would go to hell.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA

By Australian Newsletter

The way we experienced church last year changed significantly for many. From foregoing weekly face-to-face gatherings, to embracing digital services and not singing in a congregation, there’s been widespread adaptation required of both church leaders and attendees. But has it all been bad? What affect has it had on Australia’s interest in the church? McCrindle Research recently released the results of their latest study, The Future of the Church in Australia, compiling the responses of over 30 church leaders and hundreds of churchgoers who they interviewed about the state of Christianity in our nation. “It’s been a year like no other – for the church,” Mark McCrindle said. “We’ve all been dealing with the pandemic, and social isolation and working from home, and that has impacted people spiritually.”

As the COVID-19 crisis upends traditional church formats and how we engage with our faith, social researcher Mark McCrindle delves into the future of the church in Australia, and how it’s fundamentally shifted as a result of the pandemic, for the better, and maybe for the worst. For people who already had a faith, this has meant they’ve leaned into that faith, and for non-Christians it’s caused them to be spirituality hungry and curious. “The amazing news is that 76 per cent of Australian churchgoers said that this year has been a year of spiritual growth for them,” Mark said. “Only 26 per cent said that it’s been a year of spiritual dryness, and we know this biblically: that through these times, hardships and difficulties we do strengthen our faith, because when we’re weak in ourselves then we’re strong in Christ.”

Despite the reputational challenges that have faced the church in recent years, particularly after the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse, people still turn to the church in crises. “In these new times of uncertainty and complexity and volatility, people do look for something more grounding in their life. They look beyond everything else that seems to be fading,” Mark said. “And as people of faith that have built our life on timeless truth and on the Rock, we know that you need something more than the shifting sands of our society. We, as the church, have a hope and have a message of good news to share, and I think it’s important we do that.” The McCrindle Research report also clarified data around the decline of Christianity in Australia. “’Christianity’ in terms of our identity nationally has been declining,” Mark said.

“In the last 10 years of census results, the proportion of Australians saying their religion is Christianity has declined from 64 per cent to 52 per cent. “However, that doesn’t capture people’s practice, and those who might be churchgoers. In fact, the National Church Life survey data shows that the proportion of Australians attending church regularly has been unchanged. “So while there’s been the evaporation of what you might call, ‘cultural Christianity’ or ‘historic Christianity’ or ‘I’m Australian… so I guess I’m that’, the core of those who say, ‘Christianity is my faith, it’s my walk and I’m a churchgoer’ is unchanged.”

Source: Hope 103.2FM

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CHRISTMAS GREETINGS AND HOLIDAY SCHEDULE

By Australian Newsletter

This being the last Australian News for 2020 we take the opportunity to thank our readers for their support and to wish all a blessed and wonderful Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus. We pray it will be followed by a restful break, and a 2021 full of renewed vision and faith for the year ahead.

Australian News will return on Wednesday 6th January.

Source: Australian Prayer Network

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SELF HARM TRIPLED IN MELBOURNE DURING CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN

By Australian Newsletter

Sixteen teenagers harmed themselves and were admitted to one hospital’s intensive care unit in just three months during Melbourne’s coronavirus lockdown, a surge doctors warn is part of an alarming mental health crisis among children. The admissions to the Monash Children’s Hospital ICU from August to last month represented a significant increase on the five self-harm cases treated there in the same period last year. A senior child psychiatrist warned Melbourne was in the grip of a deepening teen mental health crisis linked directly to the four-month lockdown ordered by the Victorian government to beat COVID-19. “Lockdown was an extremely traumatic and sustained experience for young people,” said the mental health expert, who asked not to be named. “It was also well outside the range of normal stresses and troubles of life.

“We all know you are going to have to deal with heartbreak, or death, or illness in yourself or family, but a lot of the young people I talk to, they are disproportionately far more fearful of the virus itself than I think is warranted from a data point of view.  “Amplifying that were the stresses and restrictions of isolation and lockdown, of being away from your friends and being trapped in a family, even if that’s a perfectly good family.” According to data released by Monash, eight teens were treated in the ICU after self-harming this August, compared with four in the same month last year. In September there were four cases (none last year) and there were four cases in October (one last year).

Associate professor Felix Oberender, director of Monash’s paediatric ICU, said: “It is hard to say for certain what exactly may have caused this increase in self-harm cases. Children and teenagers face lots of pressures in their life, which have been amplified during this pandemic.” More than 160,000 students in Years 8-10 missed 22 weeks of school this year, instead doing remote learning as the government imposed one of the toughest lockdowns in the world to defeat the coronavirus’s second wave. Some doctors believe the Monash data is compelling evidence teenagers were hardest hit by Melbourne’s lockdown. A range of doctors, paediatricians and adolescent mental health experts  all pleaded with the government to avoid future lockdowns, even in the event of a third wave.

“Once the second lockdown felt it was never going to end, cases weren’t trending down for quite a long time, and there was no exit strategy of any sort, people’s capacity to grit their teeth and hang in there reached its limits,” one medical expert said. “There is a certain inevitability about the virus coming back when we open up again and there is every chance that the lockdown policies will be right back in, given the enormous institutional support and the lack of any meaningful opposition; people grumbled but there was none of that million people politely walking out on the streets and getting back to work and saying, ‘no we don’t accept these conditions’.” Mental health experts queried whether the recently announced investment in mental health funding was all new money and feared it wouldn’t make a difference.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced a $870m funding boost, including almost $500m for 120 extra mental health beds. “Everyone wants the best for the children but there is no mechanisms to actually force government to increase resources because of public pressure or even built-in mechanisms to increase capacity as there are for every flu season, or after an accident or bushfire, when everything instantly ramps up,’’ one mental health expert said.  “Elective surgery lists are nice and carefully collected and CEOs of hospitals are pressed to improve them. But in mental health it just does not work like that. “I don’t understand it because the same forces should apply and there are even similar metrics. But the kind of excuses are, ‘it’s a lot harder to bring online mental health beds’. I don’t buy that, it’s not a compelling argument.”

Senior developmental paediatrician Liam Tjia believes the teen mental health crisis can be linked to the draconian Melbourne lockdown, and said that must not be repeated. “There must never, ever be such a broad, geographically determined lockdown, as the governments have been relying on this year. It is just unconscionable,” Dr Tjia said. “There just needs to be no more lockdowns. The pandemic can be managed through measures. We just need to be better prepared about managing it without relying on lockdowns.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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ANOTHER WIN FOR ISRAEL FOLAU

By Australian Newsletter

Champion rugby player Israel Folau has had a tumultuous 19 months. In April last year on his personal Instagram account, he posted a blunt paraphrase of two verses in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to Christians in the Greek city of Corinth. It was a grim warning to believers in that large and prosperous city, known for its temple prostitutes, drunkenness and promiscuity –a culture that may ring a few bells today. But there is hope, as Paul goes on in verse 11: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Folau also offered hope. In his Instagram post, he said: “Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.” Folau had warned of Hell. And all hell broke loose.

Adulterers, thieves, drunks, swindlers and slanderers weren’t upset. But his mention of homosexuality – men who have sex with men – was like a red rag to a bull. Folau was the Wallabies’ best player. But Rugby Australia sacked him, for stating his sincere religious belief, affirmed in a book treated with honour in every Australian court room. As you probably know, Folau appealed his unfair dismissal and later won a significant out-of-court settlement. But he soon had another battle on his hands. Sydney gay activist Garry Burns, who has made hundreds of complaints to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board over the years, lodged one against Israel Folau last December.  Burns claimed that Folau’s post vilified homosexuals. The Board initially accepted his complaint, but later rejected it, saying he had failed to keep the matter confidential and had sent numerous inappropriate emails to Folau’s lawyers.

NSW Anti-Discrimination Board president Annabelle Bennett said Burns’ complaint was “vexatious” and “a flagrant abuse of process such that no further actions should be taken”. But Garry Burns did not give up. In April he appealed to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Then recently there was good news.  On 18 November, the Tribunal rejected Mr Burns’ application. It found he was only doing it to get funds to pay a $82,000 legal bill run up in another legal fight.  Tribunal chief Anne Britton said the “egregious nature of Mr Burns’ conduct” amounted to an abuse of process. He had sent “intemperate” emails to Folau’s legal team as well as disrespectful, intemperate and threatening emails to members of the Anti-Discrimination Board. Israel Folau and others, including Bernard Gaynor, another victim of many Burns’ complaints, are praising God for this win. Ironically, thanks to Rugby Australia and Garry Burns, millions worldwide now know the meaning of 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10!

Source:  National Alliance of Christian Leaders

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