Religion News Australia

March 5 – 12, 2023

Religion news stories from Australia

(Research: Greg Spearritt)



Malka Leifer protested her innocence in tears as she was stood down, County Court trial hears (ABC News)
Feb 28 – Malka Leifer was in tears and protesting her innocence after being stood down as school principal amid child sexual abuse allegations in 2008, Victoria’s County Court has heard.

Malka Leifer allegedly told student sexual abuse would be good for her future marriage (The Guardian, Australia)
Mar 2 – One of three sisters allegedly sexually abused by the former ultra-Orthodox Jewish school principal Malka Leifer was distraught when revealing what happened to her, a court has been told.

Two charges against former Melbourne principal Malka Leifer dropped as abuse trial nears end (ABC News)
Mar 6 – Two of the 29 charges against Malka Leifer have been dropped as the sex abuse trial of the former Melbourne school principal nears its conclusion.

Lawyer for Malka Leifer tells jury alleged victim told ‘blatant lies’ and lacks credibility (ABC News)
Mar 9 – Malka Leifer’s lawyers say one of the sisters who accused her of sexual assault told “blatant lies”, and is a witness who can’t be relied upon.

Malka Leifer ‘pretended to love’ victims to abuse them, jury hears (The Age, Melbourne)
Mar 9 – Prosecutors have asked a jury to convict former ultra-Orthodox school principal Malka Leifer on dozens of sexual offences, arguing she groomed her three victims, exploited her position as a respected member of the community and pretended to love them to conceal her alleged crimes.

Australian Catholic order accused of waiting for paedophile to die to shield it from abuse claims (The Guardian, Australia)
Mar 11 – A Catholic order allegedly sat on its hands for almost two years waiting for a notorious paedophile clergy member to die and is now using his death to claim it can no longer receive a fair trial against one of his victims, an approach described in court as “absolutely perverse”.


Playboy kings and gospel choirs: could my relationship survive Jesus Christ Superstar? (The Guardian, Australia)
Feb 28 – (Opinion: Jenny Valentish) I was an Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice groupie as a child, lispingly preaching their gospel to the naysayers at primary school.

The Project declared jokes about Jesus are off-limits. Are we OK with that? (Sydney Morning Herald)
Mar 2 – (Opinion: Osman Faruqi) Nearly half a century ago a British film was released that was considered so blasphemous and offensive it was banned in a number of countries, including parts of the UK itself.

Also: Serious Christians don’t mind a Jesus joke. The Project’s apology is more laughable (The Age, Melbourne)
Mar 3 – Jesus was a man of many foreskins.

Also: ‘Forced and disingenuous’: Catholic Archbishop invites The Project to church (The Age, Melbourne)
Mar 3 – The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney has invited the boss of Channel Ten and panellists from its flagship current affairs program The Project to attend church at St Mary’s Cathedral, criticising the program’s lengthy apology for a joke about Jesus as disingenuous and forced.

Also: Religious group mounts inner Sydney protest against The Project’s Jesus joke (Sydney Morning Herald)
Mar 4 – A group of men from a religious group took to the streets of Newtown on Friday night to protest against comments made on current affairs program The Project this week.

Also: Christian prayer march along Newtown street was ‘unauthorised protest activity’, police say (The Guardian, Australia)
Mar 4 – A group of around 30 men staged a Christian protest march on a popular entertainment strip in Sydney’s inner west on Friday night, in what police confirmed was “unauthorised protest activity”.

Also: His Jesus joke on The Project sparked outrage, so who really is Reuben Kaye? (Sydney Morning Herald)
Mar 7 – The comedian admits he might be a “stirrer” and says “there are some benefits to being a pariah”, but he’s also just an old-fashioned song-and-dance man.

Also: Fred Nile collapses at rally protesting against The Project’s Jesus joke (Sydney Morning Herald)
Mar 11 – Christian campaigner and NSW MP Fred Nile was taken to hospital after collapsing at a protest outside Channel 10’s studios on Saturday.


‘Sick of it’: Catholic women vent frustration over sex, power and abuse (Sydney Morning Herald)
Mar 6 – The largest study of Catholic women in the church’s 2000-year history has found they are hungry for reform.


Melbourne school showed ‘dereliction of duty’ to students, court told (The Guardian, Australia)
Mar 2 – The leadership at Melbourne’s Brighton Secondary College has been accused of a “dereliction of duty” on the final day of a court case in which it is alleged they failed to protect five Jewish students from antisemitic discrimination and bullying.


John Paul II covered up child abuse (The Australian)
Mar 6 – Karol Wojtyla while still a cardinal in Cracow transferred the priests to other dioceses — one as far away as Austria.

Catholic Church

Pope Francis at 10 years: A reformer’s learning curve (Brisbane Times)
Mar 12 – Vatican City: So much for a short pontificate.

Religious Violence

The trials of an Indian witness: how a Muslim man was caught in a legal nightmare (The Guardian, Australia)
Mar 2 – Nisar Ahmed was almost killed in the Delhi riots.

Netanyahu has brought Israel to a dangerous moment. We, the Jewish diaspora, cannot just stand by (The Guardian, Australia)
Mar 3 – (Opinion: Margaret Hodge) We are seeing the worst violence for many years erupting in Gaza and the West Bank.

Anonymous tip-off, German gun laws failed to stop slaughter at Jehovah’s Witnesses hall (Brisbane Times)
Mar 11 – Berlin: A deadly rampage at a Jehovah’s Witnesses hall in Hamburg has put scrutiny on how the gunman was in legal possession of a semi-automatic pistol despite Germany’s tightened gun laws and a prior warning about his suspicious behaviour.

For victims and their families, there are still lingering questions about the Christchurch terrorist attack (ABC News)
Mar 12 – This week marks four years since a terrorist walked into two Christchurch mosques and killed 51 people, injured many more and forever changed the city and its Muslim community.


Estimated 20,000 people possibly exposed to measles at Kentucky religious event (The Guardian, Australia)
Mar 3 – Around 20,000 people may have been exposed to measles at a large religious event in Kentucky, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and said.

Sinners can now pray to chatbot saint (The Australian)
Mar 4 – A Swiss start-up has decided to take AI one step further and use it to put people in touch with saints.

Evangelical Christians flock to Republicans over support for Israel (The Guardian, Australia)
Mar 7 – When Israel’s former ambassador to the US said his country should worry less about what American Jews think and concentrate on Christian evangelicals as the “backbone” of support for the Jewish state, he had in mind the Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee.

How a rabbit god became an icon for Taiwan’s gay community (The Guardian, Australia)
Mar 7 – During a quiet mid-week afternoon on the eighth floor of an office building, A-wei is meditatively separating flower petals to make an offering to Tu’er Shen the rabbit god, a spiritual guardian of LGBTQI people.

India celebrates Holi, the festival of colours (ABC News)
Mar 8 – Wednesday marks the start of Holi, the festival of colours, a Hindu celebration where partygoers throw brightly coloured powders and water balloons at each other.


‘Discourtesy, disrespectful’: Festival apologises for ‘Allah’ garments on runway (The Age, Melbourne)
Mar 12 – Melbourne Fashion Festival has apologised and removed images and social media posts promoting a brand that used the Arabic text for “Allah” on its runway garments.


Inside the Australian Christian Lobby’s identity crisis (Sydney Morning Herald)
Mar 4 – A week after its managing director was sacked by his board, the group is facing fights on all sides.

‘Long march’: The right-wing Christian plan to infiltrate politics (Brisbane Times)
Mar 7 – An Australian right-wing Christian conference has been urged to flood the country’s Liberal parties with members to gain long-term influence and ensure conservative religious candidates “prevail” in every branch.

Dom’s juggling act: faith, fatherhood and the fight of his life (The Australian)
Mar 11 – A deeply conservative man with a progressive agenda. A dad of seven with an oddly calm house. A gambling reformer who enjoys a punt. What other surprises does NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet have in store?


World Day of Prayer focuses on Taiwan, follows history of giving attention to women’s needs (ABC News)
Mar 3 – Aretha Franklin topped the charts in the 1960s by saying “a little prayer” and 20 years later Bon Jovi was “livin’ on a prayer”.

Albany goes from conversion therapy to one of Australia’s biggest regional Pride festivals (ABC News)
Mar 6 – Two years ago, a West Australian town made national headlines when one of its churches hosted an alleged conversion therapy event, but now the town is celebrating diversity with one of the biggest regional Pride festivals in the country.

Hillsong accused of misusing church funds to pay for private jets, luxury retreats (Sydney Morning Herald)
Mar 9 – Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie has used leaked documents to allege Hillsong Church broke financial laws in Australia and around the world, while accusing founder Brian Houston of spending lavishly on private jets, luxury retreats, designer goods and custom skateboards.

Also: Hillsong ‘committed fraud, evaded tax’: Wilkie (The Australian)
Mar 9 – Hillsong founder Brian Houston and his family enjoyed lavish overseas holidays during the pandemic, federal parliament has been told, as MP Andrew Wilkie claimed the church hid more than $80m a year from the Australian Tax Office.

Also: Hillsong accused of money laundering and tax evasion by Australian MP  (The Guardian, Australia)
Mar 9 – The independent MP Andrew Wilkie has used parliamentary privilege to level extraordinary claims of money laundering and tax evasion against Hillsong, producing what he claims are leaked documents from the mega-church that he says reveal it earned $80m more than what it has publicly declared.

Also: Charities watchdog to review fraud allegations made in parliament against Hillsong (ABC News)
Mar 11 – The charities watchdog will review allegations made in parliament that Hillsong church misused the donations of its members.

Also: Hillsong under investigation by charities regulator over explosive allegations aired in Also: parliament (The Guardian, Australia)
Mar 11 – The federal charities regulator is investigating Hillsong over explosive allegations aired under parliamentary privilege that it engaged in money laundering and tax evasion, with claims the mega-church earned $80m more than it publicly declared.

Also: ‘Jesus loves you Mr Wilkie’: Hillsong pastor announces review after parliament allegations
Mar 12 – Hillsong Church will launch an independent review of its financial structure and systems to ensure the organisation can carry out its religious mission in the wake of allegations of fraud and extravagant spending.