Religion News Australia

February 23 – March 1, 2020

Religion news stories from Australia

(Research: Greg Spearritt)



Bendigo school contacts parents and students after footage of ‘disgusting’ chant published  (ABC News)
Feb 25  – The principal of a Victorian Catholic school has written to parents after footage emerged of a group of teenagers performing the same sexist chant that caused widespread outrage when it was sung by St Kevin’s College students on a Melbourne tram last year.

St Kevin’s principal warns parents against ‘unsuitable’ private tutors (The Age, Melbourne)
Feb 25  – Parents of St Kevin’s boys have been warned they must check with the school’s new child safety officer before engaging with any private tutors to help with their sons’ learning.

ABC journalist Sarah Ferguson on making Revelation (ABC News)
Mar 1  – Sarah Ferguson spends her working life wading through murky waters, tackling difficult, confronting and harrowing stories but none has tested her like the project that consumed her for the past year: Revelation — a three-part documentary investigation into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, in which she comes face to face with two of Australia’s most notorious serial paedophiles.

Historical Newington College exchange program arranged by US child molester (Sydney Morning Herald)
Mar 1  – A student exchange program between Newington College and a Los Angeles school, run during the tenure of a former deputy headmaster accused of child sex abuse, was organised on the American side by a teacher charged with child molestation.


Boys’ schools must challenge entrenched attitudes (The Age, Melbourne)
Feb 25 – (Opinion: Chris Middleton) The publicity that engulfed St Kevin’s College last year and that was revisited on Four Corners last week is a reminder to us all about the need to continue to work at shaping school culture, and the ongoing challenges around gender relations for young people today.


Israeli President to take up Malka Leifer case with top judge if it keeps dragging on (ABC News)
Feb 26  – Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has promised to raise the case of Australian alleged child abuser Malka Leifer with his country’s top judge if her extradition case continues to stall in the courts.

Also: Malka Leifer psychiatrist cross-examination ends (Sydney Morning Herald)
Feb 28 – Jerusalem: A two-day hearing in the Jerusalem District Court, which featured the cross-examination of psychiatrists in the ongoing case against alleged child sex abuser Malka Leifer, has come to a close.

Catholic Church

Pope’s silence on China is deafening (The Australian)
Feb 24 – (Opinion: William McGurn ) Cardinal Zen is right to demand the secret Vatican-Beijing agreement be made public.

Pope Francis urges Catholics to stop posting insulting language on social media during Lent (ABC News)
Feb 27  – Pope Francis has called for Catholics to give up trolling people online during the fasting period of Lent.


Iranian chess referee who fled to UK could face arrest if she returns (The Guardian, Australia)
Feb 24  – A chess referee from Iran has fled to the UK after being warned that she could be arrested for being in breach of Iran’s strict dress codes during an international tournament in China.

Saudi Arabia blocks foreign pilgrims amid COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak (ABC News)
Feb 28  – Saudi Arabia has suspended arrivals by foreign pilgrims and tourists from some two dozen countries where the COVID-19 coronavirus has spread, as a growing number of cases deepened fears of a pandemic.

Asia Bibi: Pakistani woman jailed for blasphemy claims asylum in France (The Guardian, Australia)
Feb 29  – Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman who spent eight years on death row on blasphemy charges, has filed an initial application for asylum in France and been invited to live in the country by Emmanuel Macron.

Religious Violence

US neo-Nazis charged with harassing journalists, churches and cabinet member (The Guardian, Australia)
Feb 27  – Leaders of a neo-Nazi group have been arrested and charged in a pair of federal investigations with conspiring to harass journalists, churches and a former cabinet official, among others, with phony bomb threats and other forms of intimidation.

Unlikely photo of Australian ex-captive sitting with ex-terror detainee tweeted by Taliban (Sydney Morning Herald)
Feb 28  – Washington: At first glance, the two men look almost like old friends, grinning for a camera as they sit together on a couch drinking coffee.

Delhi’s Muslims pray under armed guard after week of riots (The Guardian, Australia)
Feb 29  – Muslims in Delhi have held Friday prayers under the watch of riot police after a week in which 42 people were killed and hundreds injured during the city’s worst sectarian violence in decades.

US, Taliban sign historic troop withdrawal deal in Doha that could end 18-year war (ABC News)
Mar 1  – The US has signed a deal with Taliban insurgents that could pave the way for a full withdrawal of foreign soldiers from Afghanistan over the next 14 months, and represent a step toward ending the 18-year war in the country.


Evangelical Christians in Brazil resolve to ‘bring Jesus’ to carnival revelers (The Guardian, Australia)
Feb 27  – With drummers pounding out samba rhythms through the rain, this might almost have been just another one of the hundreds of street parties of Rio’s world-famous carnival.

Gay rugby club set to give ‘pantomime villain’ Folau colourful welcome (The Age, Melbourne)
Mar 1  – Israel Folau will be greeted with rainbow flags by members of a gay rugby club with a transgender captain when he makes his first appearance on English soil for Catalans against Hull FC on Sunday (2am Monday AEDT).


Melbourne woman charged with terrorism offences over alleged online support for Islamic State (ABC News)
Feb 25  – Counter-terrorism officers have charged a woman from Melbourne’s south-east after she allegedly encouraged and supported a person in their bid to fight for the Islamic State terrorist organisation.

What Mardi Gras means for LGBTQI+ Muslims (ABC News)
Feb 29  – As soon as Omar Elkharouf finished school, he left home and threw himself into Sydney’s Oxford Street gay scene.


Religious discrimination bill – Porter must fix it or ditch it (Sydney Morning Herald)
Feb 25 – (Opinion: Luke Beck) Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter on Monday published an article in this paper claiming his controversial religious discrimination bill is intended merely as a “shield”, and wrongly branding my criticisms of the bill as neither genuine nor constructive.

Also: Religious ‘freedom’ bill will divide Australians, not unite us (Sydney Morning Herald)
Feb 27 – (Opinion: Michael Kirby) Over the summer, the federal government released an amended draft of its proposed Religious Discrimination Bill, designed to satisfy the bill’s many critics.

Also: Ian Thorpe campaigns against religious discrimination bill, saying it will remove Australia’s ‘fair go’ (ABC News)
Feb 27  – Ian Thorpe has visited MPs at Parliament House to lobby against the Government’s religious discrimination bill, saying it goes against the Australian notion of a “fair go” and will divide the country.

WA churches with Liberal links win grants of almost $40,000 in four months (The Guardian, Australia)
Feb 25  – A cluster of evangelical churches with strong links to West Australian Liberals have won almost $40,000 in grants in the past four months through a federal scheme.

Josh Frydenberg sounds alarm on Holocaust deniers and ‘the rise of the far right’ (ABC News)
Feb 26  – Federal Parliament’s most prominent Jewish MP, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, has warned far-right extremism is rising across the world, including in some parts of Australia.


Priest’s aid rounds through drought-hit central west NSW highlights the parish’s struggle (ABC News)
Mar 1  – Reverend Brian Schmalkuche slams the door of his dusty Holden Commodore after packing his boot full of food hampers.

Sisters lose fight to feed dying elderly mother despite intervention of the Catholic Church (ABC News)
Feb 29  – Two South Australian sisters have been denied their plea to feed their dying mother, with a public guardian refusing to reinstate the woman’s feeding tube despite the intervention of the Catholic Church.