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Link highlights - August 2016

Tuesday, 6 September 2016  | Ethos editor

Link highlights – August 2016

Below is a selection of links to online news and opinion pieces, posted on the Ethos Facebook and Twitter pages between 1st and 31st August 2016. To keep up-to-date with our posts, ‘like’ us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter.

Articles posted are selected by the editor, Armen Gakavian, at his discretion. Neither the editor nor Ethos necessarily endorse the views expressed in the articles posted.

Asylum seekers and immigration

Allegations involving children make up more than 50% of the 2,000 leaked reports of the Nauru files from the detention centre on the remote Pacific island.

‘A refugee, like me: why the Golden Rule matters in an era of mass migration’, writes Rivka Witenberg.

Pastor and justice activist Jarrod McKenna says that the revelations about child abuse at Nauru meant Australia must ‘take an audit of its soul’.

‘If prior whistleblower interventions and institutional inquiries failed to dismantle these systems of deterrence, what difference would the latest leaks make?’, asks Fatima Measham.

Frank Brennan, Tim Costello, Robert Manne and John Menadue offer a practical way out of government's the asylum seeker dilemma.

Here are some ways to take action or to get involved in the asylum seeker issue.

‘Whether you oppose the offshore processing policy or support it, this limbo must end. And the sooner the better. ... But it is another matter to accuse Australia of condoning or conducting abuse‘, argues Chris Kenny.

CommonGrace encouraged its members in churches across Australia to publicly pray about the heartbreaking situations detailed in both the Don Dale Kids report and the Nauru Files.

Nauru Files reinforce the need for political grace, writes Fatima Measham.

The Nauruan Government has criticised the coverage of alleged abuse in its immigration detention centre, saying most claims are fabricated.

Religious leaders stage prayer protest in Turnbull's electorate office over offshore detention centres.

Sydney Baptist minister and academic Rev. Dr Michael Frost explains that, ‘after the Nauru Files, I Couldn’t Stay Silent’.

Our response to the Syrian crisis has been driven by border protection rather than refugee protection’, writes Tim Costello.


Doctors working in the public system should be banned from refusing to perform certain procedures, such as abortions, because of their religious beliefs, argues Oxford-based Australian bioethicist Julian Savulescu.

Census 2016

The compulsory requirement to provide name and address in the August 9 Census is a breach of the Australian Privacy Act 1988, argues former statistician Bill McLennan.

Concerns over privacy in the upcoming Census are overstated, and ABS safeguards to protect privacy and secure data are sufficient, argues ANU academic, Liz Allen.

Michael Jensen responds to a campaign by the Atheist Foundation of Australia to increase the numbers of people ticking ‘no religion’ in the Census.

Hugh Harris responds to Michael Jensen's argument that ‘there's no such thing as a non-religious human being’.

The census is about social identification, not religious commitment, writes Peter Robert Green.

The idea, held by many Christians, that people with a nominal affiliation to a denomination should tick 'yes' on the census is misguided, argues Stephen McAlpine.

A round-up on the census 'no religion' discussion, by Eternity News.

Child sexual abuse

If we don’t listen to the victims and take heed of their experiences, we are silencing them and sending them to hide in the shadows, explain counsellor Nicky Lock and hospital chaplain Tim Spencer.

The crimes of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and other institutions encompass the experience of victims, the institutional causes of clerical abuse and the steps needed to do justice to its victims and to ensure it does not happen again, writes Andrew Hamilton.

Culture & society

Our age is characterised by tender self-obsession: what matters is not what you think or do but how you feel, writes Terry Eagleton in a review of William Davies’ The Happiness Industry.

Interview with Elizabeth Oldfield, Director of the 'Theos' think tank in the UK, on religion in the public square.


Why did the mass murder of 19 disabled people in Japan barely rate?

End of Life

The launch by Andrew Denton of a new pro-euthanasia organisation will send a message that some lives are not worth living, warns the Australian Christian Lobby.

Andrew Denton has lashed out at a ‘subterranean Catholic force’ of politicians and businessmen who he claims continue to thwart attempts to allow legally assisted voluntary euthanasia in Australia.

Community-based palliative care reduces unnecessary and costly hospital treatment, argues Spain’s Dr Emilio Herrera.

The discovery that many genes are still working up to 48 hours after death has implications for organ transplants, forensics and our very definition of death, writes Anna Williams.

The church has a duty to be involved in euthanasia debate, writes bioethicist and palliative care doctor Megan Best.


‘Can environmentalists learn to love – or just tolerate – nuclear power?’, asks David Hecht.

Early in July, electricity prices in South Australia have soared as it struggles with the consequences of an ambitious build of wind farms without firm power backup, writes Ian Hore-Lacy.

Like Europeans in the 1930s going about our lives as if nothing was under threat, we ignore the existential crisis that is before us.

Are We Feeling Collective Grief Over Climate Change? ‘There isn't the slightest shred of doubt in my mind, that everyone on some level is anxious, deeply anxious, about climate change’, a forensic psychiatrist says.

Pope Francis says destroying the environment is a sin and has called for urgent action to stop climate change.

Indigenous Affairs

Stephen Atkinson, a Barngarla man in Port Augusta, writes on why he sees many missionaries as friends to the First Australians.


The Australian Christian Lobby has raised concerns over a proposal for Australians to be able to pick the sex of their baby under proposed IVF law changes. By Kieren Jackson.

Law, human rights and free speech

The whole idea behind the Racial Discrimination Act is that we are too dumb to say what we think, too stupid to assess what other people say, and too helpless to control our reactions to what others say’, writes David Leyonhjelm.

Leyonhjelm, Roberts and others must acknowledge their amazing luck to be so privileged, responds Duncan Fine.

Neil Foster responds to the comment by Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, that ‘a recent example of the failure of Parliament to protect fundamental rights is the decision to hold a plebiscite on marriage equality’.

Will the champions of change kill off the Coalition’s plebiscite, thereby denying the main hope of reform in this parliament, asks Paul Kelly?

Akos Balogh argues that, in Australia, religious freedom is being eroded and we are slowly becoming an ‘Atheist Theocracy’.

Kathleen Clubb, a mother of 13, is the first person to be charged under new laws designed to stop protesters intimidating clients of abortion clinics.

Mental health

Lynne Malcolm and Clare Blumer trace the history of the diagnosis, treatment and punishment of mental illness.

Mother Theresa

Mother Teresa officially became a saint in the Catholic Church on 4 September. Eternity News suggests 10 things you might not know about the famous nun.

‘Despite her faults, Mother Teresa took dying people off the Kolkata streets. No one else does that’, writes Mari Marcel Thekaekara.


The relative silence by the western media on the persecution of Christians reveals our religious blind spots rather than a conspiracy of silence, Natasha Moore of the Centre for Public Christianity wrote in 2014.

There is one minority group that is more persecuted than any other in the world, yet the Western media shuts its eyes to persecution of Christians by IS, writes Greg Sheridan.


Something has gone drastically wrong when the principle of secularism imposes a dress code and forces people to undress against their will, writes Harry Farley.

Sexuality and same-sex marriage plebiscite

Stephen O’Doherty, in his role as CEO of Christian Schools Australia, believes understanding is crucial in a school’s approach to students who are gay or questioning their gender - despite his concerns about the Safe Schools Program.

Safe Schools & LGBTI Students: What Would Jesus Do? An interview with Stephen O’Doherty.

Lyle Shelton, Managing Director of the ACL, responds to The Drum host Julia Baird comment that the Australian Christian Lobby's focus on the issue of same-sex marriage has been at the expense of the issue of domestic violence. (You can view the full program here.)

The plebiscite should be framed in such a way to allow all citizens to send their signal to the Australian Parliament that they, as indispensable contributors to this polity, are committed to a just system of public governance’, argues Bruce Wearne.

We should be wary of establishing a precedent that makes plebiscites anything other than advisory, argues Joel Harrison.

A Pro Bono Australia panel investigates whether the question of same-sex marriage should be put to the people via a plebiscite or go straight to Parliament.

The Anglican Church in New Zealand provides an example of the willingness to take time, and a desire to remain together that refines arguments beyond competing forms of rights claims, writes Joel Harrison.

Neil Foster responds to the comment by Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, that ‘a recent example of the failure of Parliament to protect fundamental rights is the decision to hold a plebiscite on marriage equality’.

Will the champions of change kill off the Coalition’s plebiscite, thereby denying the main hope of reform in this parliament?

The leader of the Sydney Anglican diocese has warned that the political debate on same-sex marriage is ‘so tainted’ its resolution is beyond the ‘capabilities of the current parliament’.

While the plebiscite is not the best option, Turnbull must proceed, and Labor must support him, writes Frank Brennan.

Akos Balogh wrote to GetUp to ask questions about some of the claims, made in its Anti-plebiscite Video, about those who oppose SSM.

Neil Foster responds to a recent article by a law academic, arguing that ‘marriage inequality is a threat to religious freedom and it is probably unconstitutional’.

When 'Safe Schools' sexualises children, should we be surprised about school porn rings? By Wendy Francis, writes ACL’s Wendy Francis.

‘What if I told you there was a reasonable, non-homophobic case against same-sex marriage?’, asks Michael Bird

The same-sex legislation will pass one day, with or without a plebiscite, argues Stephen McAlpine.

The opposition of the churches to the legalisation of same sex marriage seems to suffer from a failure to make a fundamental distinction, writes Alan Hogan.

With 40% of same sex couples in Australia identifying as Christian, how do LGBT Christians see their place in conservative Christian churches?, asks Mark Jennings.

The price of a plebiscite is too high for LGBTI young people, writes Neve Mahoney.

The government is proceeding with the plebiscite despite the cost, warnings about divisiveness from some community leaders and the fact it is not the personal preference of Malcolm Turnbull, writes John Warhurst.

Blocking the plebiscite on same-sex marriage would be no victory, writes Tim Wilson.

The problem with plebiscites: the limits of democracy and the nature of representation. Discussion by Waleed Aly, Scott Stephens and Joel Harrison.

Social policy and welfare

Karl Faase traces the Christian origins of the underlying assumptions of our culture, particularly in regard to care for the needy.

Market economics are not the solution for human services, argues Roland Manderson.


Doping in sport simply gives athletes an advantage similar to other training regimes. So why the moral outrage, asks Heather Dyke?

Perhaps we should look less at those people who are the best chance for medals, and more at those people who are most likely to inspire us with their efforts, writes Michael McVeigh.

This insistence that transgressors should definitively lose their good name and the right to participate is not confined to sport, writes Andrew Hamilton.

US elections

US election candidates, and the religious leaders who back them, claim to know where Jesus stands on various issues. But do they, asks Prof. Darrell Bock?


So much of our charity and care directed at helping women and children ignores the economics of inequality and unfairness. But Boaz realised that charity to Ruth and Naomi at harvest time was not enough’, writes Amanda Jackson, Executive Director of the World Evangelical Alliance's Women's Commission.

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