By Australian Newsletter

The power of employers to punish people who make potentially offensive religious statements outside work hours is emerging as a deal-breaker for Christian conservatives in the lead-up to the Morrison government unveiling the final version of a religious discrimination bill. Australian Christian Lobby managing director Martyn Iles is calling on Attorney-General Michaelia Cash to retain protections for religious employees, known as the “Folau clause”, after she signalled that the final bill will be a traditional, limited piece of anti-discrimination legislation. But LGBTI rights advocates are opposed to the proposal, which they call a “no consequences for conduct” clause, and want the Attorney-General to ensure employers will be allowed to ensure homophobia will not be tolerated in workplaces.

Mr Iles said that keeping protections for workers outside employment hours was an issue for religious leaders. He warned Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Senator Cash not to backtrack in the final draft.  “The faith leaders are agreed that the Religious Discrimination Bill must provide meaningful protection for people of faith. In particular, that employers will not be able to police the religious speech of employees on the employees’ own time,” he said. “Christian Porter’s first two drafts contained this protection. We expect that the Prime Minister and Attorney-General will not walk back from this”. The right of employees to make religious statements outside work has been labelled the “Folau clause” after the rugby star Israel Folau, who was pushed out by Rugby Australia for an Instagram post claiming gay people go to hell.

Under the clause, businesses making more than $50m have to prove a person’s religious statement would cause financial harm to the company before taking action against the individual. The clause has earned the ire of moderate Liberal MPs who say they will not support a religious discrimination bill that veers outside traditional anti-discrimination legislation and removes rights from gay people won in the 2017 introduction of same-sex marriage. Equality Australia chief executive Anna Brown, the leader of the nation’s biggest LGBTI rights group, said she hoped Senator Cash’s recent comments were a sign the Morrison government was beginning to listen to the LGBTI community’s concerns.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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By Australian Newsletter

The killing of unborn children is on the rise in Australia, according to a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA). Researchers compared deaths from surgical and “medical” abortions from 2014-2015 with the years 2017-2018 and found they sky-rocketed by more than 10,000 babies. Surgical abortions were slightly down. However, the overall increase in killings was driven by the availability of the baby poison pills mifepristone and misoprostol. These drugs, commonly known as RU-486, were added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in 2013, dramatically reducing the cost. Administered up until the ninth week of pregnancy, RU-486 starves the unborn baby to death by blocking his or her supply of progesterone, causing detachment from the mother’s uterus.

The research conducted by Louise Keogh, Lyle Gurrin and Patricia Moore was approved by the University of Melbourne Human Research Ethics Committee. The research found that in 2014-15 there were 78,734 unborn babies killed by abortion. By 2017-18, the figure had jumped to 88,290. In 2014-15, 75,514 of unborn babies killed were via surgical abortions while just 3220 were by poisoning. While the overall killing increased by 10,000 by 2017-18, surgical abortions had dropped to 67,546 with poisonings jumping dramatically to 20,741. Sadly the research does not take into account the impact on mothers, an area of study hardly touched since the release of Melinda Tankard Reist’s ground-breaking book Giving Sorrow Words: Women’s Stories of Grief After Abortion.

The authors of the MJA article write: “about 5% of medical abortions are incomplete or complicated; in these cases, women may be admitted to hospital for surgical abortions”. “Incomplete” is a euphemism for the unborn baby survived poisoning and had to be finished off in hospital. Common side-effects of RU-486 for mothers are bleeding, pain and cramping. The study covers the period immediately before Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia passed their controversial abortion-to-birth laws. It will be interesting to see what impact these laws have on unborn baby killings. It is an iron law of public policy that what politicians encourage, society gets more of. Time will tell in the case of abortion liberalisation.

Source: Lyle Shelton Director of Campaigns and Communications for the Christian Democratic Party

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By Australian Newsletter

Religious discrimination will be outlawed in NSW, Attorney General Mark Speakman has announced.  “NSW is a proudly multicultural and multi-faith society. We’re pleased to be taking this critical step to protect people of faith and of no faith from discrimination and to support freedom of religion,” Mr Speakman said. “By making discrimination on the grounds of religion unlawful, we’re ensuring that our laws reflect modern community values.” The NSW Government will introduce a bill in Parliament to amend the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW), adding religion to existing protected grounds of disability, sex, race, age, marital or domestic status, homosexuality, transgender status and carer’s responsibilities. These reforms will see NSW join other states and territories in making religious discrimination unlawful.

Minister for Multiculturalism Natalie Ward said the reforms will support those facing religious discrimination to access remedies and support through Anti-Discrimination NSW. “Religious discrimination is unacceptable in our community and the NSW Government is committed to stopping this behaviour,” Mrs Ward said. “We have a harmonious multi-faith community in NSW which is grounded in respect. It deserves recognition and protection to thrive.” In June 2021, the Commonwealth Government announced its intention to introduce a Religious Discrimination Bill to protect against discrimination based on religious belief or activity in key areas of public life into Federal Parliament by the end of this year.

The NSW Government plans to await the passage of the Commonwealth Bill through Parliament before finalising the detail of NSW reforms, to enable it to consider the interaction of Commonwealth law with NSW reforms and to avoid constitutional inconsistency. This announcement responds to the central recommendation of a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry, which found that there was a strong need to protect people from discrimination on the grounds of religious beliefs and activities. The reform also responds to a recommendation of the Expert Panel Report: Religious Freedom Review (the “Ruddock review”) that NSW should amend its anti-discrimination law to protect against discrimination on religious grounds.

Source: Press Release from office of the NSW Attorney General

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By Feature Articles

By Joseph Mattera.  Dr. Mattera is an internationally-known author, consultant, and theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence culture. He is the founding pastor of Resurrection Church, and leads several organizations, including The U.S. Coalition of Apostolic Leaders and Christ Covenant Coalition.

I preach in many different places and have been involved in evangelism and overseeing a local church for almost four decades. I found that often it is not the Gospel that turns people off, but it is the people carrying the Gospel that turns them off! I think that church leadership should remove as many unnecessary stumbling blocks as possible so that as many as possible can be saved. The following 12 points are based on conversations I have had with millennial leaders as well as the average person on the street.
1  An overemphasis on money

I have been in some services where the offering took more than thirty minutes. I’ve also witnessed services in which it was common to collect three offerings or more! This gives new people the impression that the Church leadership is more concerned with collecting money than preaching the Gospel. This also leaves the Church open to suspicion regarding its motives. I believe money and stewardship should be taught regularly. At times, fundraising should be a focal point in church gatherings, but it should never consistently rival the time given to preaching and teaching the word of God.

2  The opulent lifestyle of the leadership

In many cases, the lavish lifestyle of the pastor and top leaders is a huge stumbling block for the Gospel. I believe God wants His children blessed by the wise use of their finances and investments. Still, the pastor and leaders should model a lifestyle of simplicity and not extravagance, especially if they lead churches in poor communities. The apostles Peter and Paul both stated that greed should not be a trait of Church elders (1 Peter 5:2; 1 Timothy 3:3).

3  Scandals

In this day and age, any fool can post something scandalous on social media about a church or leader that has no basis in the truth. We cannot always avoid these things, which is why you should not be quick to believe what people post about others! However, when leaders don’t have proper boundaries in their finances and personal life, they tend to cross the line in both. These are the ones that are ripe for a public scandal. From the huge televangelist scandals of the 1980s to the present, scandals give the unbeliever another excuse not to repent and believe the Gospel. Every leader should be careful what they text, email, post, and say in public and private. They should have a strong interior life in which they walk in fear of the Lord. This enables all of us to depart from evil (Proverbs 16:6).

4  Duplicitous behaviour

When children of believers or the unsaved witness ungodly behaviour from their co-workers, employees, neighbours, and friends who claim to be Christians, it is a huge stumbling block to the Gospel.

5  Religious titles

Many millennials in certain communities are turned off by the excessive use of elaborate religious hierarchical titles. In some religious settings, everybody has a title like Bishop, Apostle, Doctor, Reverend, Archbishop, and more. Young people are especially turned off by the need for this kind of identification for self-validation.

6  Religious language

People in this generation are not as religious as the previous generation and feel disconnected when a believer constantly uses religious vocabulary in everyday communication. We have to learn to communicate using the “language of Babylon” if we intend to make a strong connection with this generation. We have to teach believers how to “think Biblically but speak secularly” if the Gospel is to make inroads in culture.’

7  Religious images of power

Vestiges of authority and power in the church turn off many young people. They more easily relate to down-to-earth, transparent leadership. They are turned off when they see thrones on a church stage in which leaders are elevated above the congregation, with pastors preaching (down) at the congregation. It gives them the wrong impression of leadership.

8  Religious behaviour

Sometimes in church, the people have so many protocols, traditions, and rituals, it scares new people into thinking they have to become religious robots to believe. We need to show the world the difference between being religious (which does not save or sanctify a person) and having a relationship with the Lord Jesus.

9  Territorial emphasis over kingdom focus

Many are turned off to the Gospel when they see leadership merely focused on their agenda while neglecting the good of their community. God called us to serve our communities, not just build larger church buildings.

10  Programs over people

Many people are turned off to the Gospel when they see the Church focus more on events and programs than on connecting to and loving people.

11  Triumphalism

Many young people are turned off by triumphalist prayers and pronouncements about taking cities and nations back for God. They feel called to serve their community, not to take it over by force. We in the Church have to be careful with the kind of language we use to communicate our vision.

12  No community and authenticity

What people crave the most is community. Everyone needs to feel loved and to belong to an entity greater than themselves. Part of the Church’s call is to assimilate new believers into the visible Body of Christ through relationships and discipleship. When people come to the Church and only experience program-based Christianity, they will eventually leave and look for a real community.

Source: Article written by Dr Joseph Mattera

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By Australian Newsletter

There is little doubt that teenagers and young people have been hit hardest of all by Covid-19. Presentations to emergency departments in NSW for self-harm or suicidal ideation among 12-17-year-olds is 49 per cent higher in 2021 compared to 2019. This year is even worse for young people than last. While hospital admissions for acute mental health conditions have increased by only 2 per cent for the general population, for children and young people, admissions have spiked by 43 per cent. “This is not a normal time for any of us. I don’t think it’s over the top to equate it to a public health version of being at war,” says NSW chief psychiatrist Murray Wright on the impact of the pandemic. “Every child, from primary school onwards, is aware that they’re not living a normal life.”

Eve says when Sydney’s latest lockdown was announced in June, she was plunged into despair. While her health is significantly better than last year, a testament to her courage and resilience, the isolation at times makes her depressed. “When I heard lockdown was coming again I literally cried because I was so scared that what happened to me last year was going to happen again,” she says. “I don’t have any motivation to do any exercise, and so I’ve put on weight, and I’m not going out, which makes my depression worse. I’m not bothered to get out of bed, I’m not bothered to have a shower, I go for, like, a week without having a shower and I just lie in bed watching Netflix and TikTok all day. Not being able to see my friends is the worst thing. It just makes me feel really alone. When I can’t see my friends I feel like nobody loves me.”

The pandemic has further exposed existing critical gaps in mental health service delivery for young people. Victoria’s chief psychiatrist Dr Neil Coventry has urged residents to “reach out” to those undergoing mental health struggles, saying feelings of confusion and uncertainty are “very normal” reactions to lockdowns. “Parents are sleeping outside the doors of their kids’ bedrooms just making sure they can be safe,” says prominent psychiatrist Patrick McGorry, whose Orygen youth mental health service has 200 young people in acute distress on its waiting list. “Parents are trying really hard to access resources, but there’s blocks at every level.” NSW is attempting to fill the gap, with of $109.5m to establish child and adolescent mental health response teams that will provide intensive care and psychological support to young people in acute distress.

The Safeguards Child and Adolescent Mental Health Response Teams are being established in every local health district, made up of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and allied health workers. NSW has also moved to employ school nurses to manage teen wellbeing. “The impact of the pandemic is significant and I think any of us that have anything to do with young people have to be very honest about that,” says NSW Mental Health Minister Bronnie Taylor. “Young people are really struggling. I would also say, though, that the predictions at the beginning of the pandemic of an exponential rise in suicides, we didn’t see that. Lifeline recently recorded its largest-ever week of calls. That’s actually a really powerful thing, that people now feel they can reach out for help, and record numbers of people are reaching out.”

Claims on the Medicare Benefits Schedule for psychology sessions have increased by 20 per cent this year for children up to 17, but Ian Hickie, from the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, is concerned it’s mostly teenagers from middle-class and privileged backgrounds who are accessing such services. Parents from the suburbs hardest hit by Delta in the southwest and west of Sydney were unlikely to be able to afford private psychiatric care. “Many young people are actually receiving no care, they’re being sent home from emergency departments with no care, presenting with suicidal ideation and self-harm and are being told that they don’t have a problem, meaning they don’t have a problem sufficient enough to get care,” Professor Hickie says.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian says her decision to relax exercise restrictions in local government areas of concern was prompted by concerns over the mental health of locked down residents. “And parents are being told, well, if you can afford to get care, you go and buy the care. So what that means is the care tends to happen in eastern Sydney and northern Sydney and eastern Melbourne, and not in the outer suburbs, the western suburbs of our major cities, not in our rural and regional areas.”Dr Wright does not agree people are being turned away from emergency departments. “I think it’s really, really important we look at evidence. I would rather we didn’t have people getting to the point where they are in crisis and are attending our emergency departments, but we don’t turn people away from emergency departments.

“We are working really hard to meet the challenges. The Safeguard teams are a large targeted investment. At the very least it’s a substantial and meaningful step.” Victoria is also in the midst of a record investment in mental health following the royal commission in that state. Yet the demand keeps increasing. Ms Valentine hopes other parents will not have the fight to access services. “The exhaustion, the trauma of watching your child in psychosis and not being able to protect them and not being able to help them and not knowing where to go, it was harrowing and exhausting and depressing. I’ve got a lot of strength to follow it through, but a lot of people don’t.” The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is calling for the impacts of mental health to be specifically considered in any decisions about restrictions and lockdowns.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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By Australian Newsletter

Attorney-General Michaelia Cash is signalling new laws to fight discrimination against people of faith will not morph into a religious bill of rights, and warns some faith leaders their demands for wider protections for religious institutions are “constitutionally barred”. The religious discrimination act was a key promise of Scott Morrison’s at the 2019 election and is a major policy barnacle Senator Cash wants to deal with before the next federal poll. In her first wide-ranging interview as the nation’s first law officer, Senator Cash said she also wants to set up a national integrity commission before the election and is taking advice on the need for an independent complaints body to oversee judges.

After revealing in June plans to bring the religious discrimination bill to a vote by Christmas, Senator Cash was inundated with calls from religious leaders to override state government bans on gay conversion therapy and to significantly broaden the bill’s definitions of faith-based institutions to cover a wider group of institutions than places of worship and schools. But the Attorney-General said that the bill would need to stick within the confines of traditional anti-discrimination legislation. “Some people are putting forward ideas that go way beyond a religious discrimination bill and in some cases are constitutionally barred,” she said. “It is widely recognised that we do need a religious discrimination bill, it is widely recognised that we need to deliver on the Ruddock review, there will be some carve-outs due to the nature of religious beliefs.

“I am working day and night with stakeholders, looking at whether or not what they’re saying is within the confines of a religious discrimination bill.” Moderate Liberals have been vocal in opposing any bill that might reduce the rights of LGBTI Australians or roll back the gains made on same-sex marriage. Some have privately questioned why the bill is being resurrected so close to an election. The religious discrimination bill was effectively shelved by Senator Cash’s predecessor, Christian Porter, for the first 18 months of the pandemic after two unpopular drafts. An analysis of 7000 submissions sent to the Attorney-General’s Department over the draft laws found the second version of the bill was generally opposed by more than 80 per cent of stakeholders, up from 30 per cent who were against the first draft.

Religious leaders such as Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli have also appealed to the government to get Labor’s support for any bill and to ensure the final law does not become politically divisive. But some religious leaders have said in recent months the Morrison government’s failure to pass strong protections for faith groups will lead to an electoral backlash. When asked to respond to concerns from moderate Liberals that the bill could become a “religious bill of rights” and hurt gay rights, Senator Cash said: “This is a religious discrimination bill to protect people from discrimination on the basis of their religion. “What I would like to bring into parliament by the end of the year is a bill that has the support of the majority of parliament, because that will affect positive change.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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By Australian Newsletter

In a show of great unity, Christians from across Australia have rallied behind Vision Christian Media to secure a high power FM licence covering all of Hobart, auctioned by the Government. This ten thousand watt licence on top of Mount Wellington will soon be broadcasting Vision Christian Radio across Tasmania’s capital city and its quarter of a million souls. Establishing this FM service will be a priority project with technical planning now in full swing and a transmitter already ordered and in transit from overseas. There are many factors still to fall into place but Vision hope to have it up and running within six months.

Source: Vision Christian Media

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