Religion News Australia

December 13 – 20, 2020

Religion news stories from Australia

(Research: Greg Spearritt)


Former Trinity College teacher Tony Webb to appeal child sexual abuse reporting conviction (ABC News)
Dec 16 – One of the first people convicted under Western Australia’s child sexual abuse mandatory reporting laws has announced he is appealing, a move which has further upset a victim and his family.

Former Scotch College teacher Andrew Robert Grant jailed for child exploitation offences (ABC News)
Dec 17 – The actions of a veteran Victorian teacher who preyed upon children, getting them to send him explicit pictures of themselves, has been described as “depraved” by a judge.

Australian government says former teacher Malka Leifer will have 60 days to surrender (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 17 – Attorney-General Christian Porter says former teacher Malka Leifer should face an Australian court after Israel signed an extradition order to send her to Australia to face charges of child sex abuse.


Ex-ACTU president appointed to Vatican body (The Australian)
Dec 15 – Sharan Burrow, now General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, is part of a new Vatican council aimed at reforming capitalism.

Pell says he has no intention of seeking damages for jail time (Brisbane Times)
Dec 17 – Rome: Pope Francis’ former treasurer, Australian Cardinal George Pell, has told a virtual book launch press conference that he had no intention of seeking damages from the Australian government for his incarceration and said he intended to split his time between Sydney and the Vatican.


Handout to cut Catholic uni fees (The Australian)
Dec 18 – More than 2000 students at the Perth-based University of Notre Dame will pay lower fees.

Catholic Church

‘A lot of smoke’: Cardinal Pell claims church figures targeted him over finance probe (The Age, Melbourne)
Cardinal George Pell has linked the charges he faced in Australia to his efforts to clean up the Vatican’s finances, claiming senior Catholic Church figures targeted him as he probed corruption allegations at the highest levels of the church.

George Pell: Trump is a barbarian, but ‘in some important ways’ he’s our barbarian (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 17 – Cardinal George Pell has praised Donald Trump’s “splendid” supreme court appointments, but questioned his effort to sow doubt in the integrity of the US presidential election.

Francis pays price for messing with the nativity (The Australian)
Dec 18 – (Opinion: Dennis Shanahan) After a year of death, Italians were looking to the old traditions for comfort. Instead they got modernistic sculptures of Mary, Jesus and Joseph and an astronaut.


Model facing prison for nude photos on Turkish flag, in mosque (
Dec 18 – A Playboy model is facing seven years behind bars after she posed naked in front of a mosque and at a beach laying on the Turkish national flag.


Why Obama’s ‘Jew’ slur must be called out (The Australian)
Dec 18 – (Opinion: Henry Ergas ) The silence that has greeted the former US president’s description of Nicolas Sarkozy in his book reflects the normalisation of casual anti-Semitism on the ‘progressive’ side of politics.

Religious Violence

Hundreds of students still missing as Boko Haram claims Kankara attack (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 16 – Lagos: Rebels from the Boko Haram extremist group have claimed responsibility for abducting hundreds of boys from a school in Nigeria’s northern Katsina state in one of the largest such attacks in years, raising fears of a growing wave of violence in the region.

Fashion brands urged to ban Uighur-picked cotton (Brisbane Times)
Dec 16 – London: British high street brands are under pressure from human rights campaigners to ban cotton picked in the Chinese region that is home to its oppressed Uighur population.

Nearly 350 Nigerian kidnapped schoolboys rescued (The Age, Melbourne)
Dec 18 – Katsina: Security forces on Thursday, local time, rescued nearly 350 schoolboys who had been kidnapped by suspected Islamist gunmen in northern Nigeria and taken into a vast forest, the governor of Katsina state said.

Afghanistan rickshaw blast kills children in Taliban-controlled area (ABC News)
Dec 18 – A bomb rigged to a rickshaw has killed at least 15 children and wounded 20 others in a Taliban-controlled area in eastern Afghanistan, a provincial official says.


Selena Gomez quits Hillsong following pastor Carl Lentz’s affair (
Dec 15 – Selena Gomez has reportedly quit Hillsong following pastor Carl Lentz’s cheating scandal.

I used to love Christingle – until I discovered what my church thought of trans people (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 17 – (Opinion: Fred McConnell) Growing up, my family was what I would now describe as culturally Church of England.

Ihumātao sacred site bought by New Zealand government for $30m (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 17 – Land claimed by Māori and once slated for large-scale private housing development has been brought by the crown, bringing an end to a decades-long land dispute.

Star of Bethlehem to reappear before Christmas (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 18 – London: It is one of the Christmas story’s central and most enduring elements – the sighting of a bright star in the skies guiding the Wise Men to Bethlehem and heralding the birth of Jesus Christ.

New York Times is stripped of honour over failure to verify Caliphate podcast claims (ABC News)
Dec 19 – The New York Times has been stripped of one award and handed back another after the newspaper admitted it could not verify key claims in its 2018 podcast Caliphate.


Man shot dead on Logan Motorway linked to double murder, matter treated as ‘terrorism event’ (ABC News)
Dec 18 – A young man who was shot dead by police on the Logan Motorway yesterday is “directly linked” to the double murder of an elderly couple, with officers describing the incident as a “terrorism event”, Queensland police say.

Also: Brisbane couple killed at random in ‘terrorism event’, say police (Brisbane Times)
Dec 18 – The murder of an elderly couple in their Brisbane home has been declared a “terrorism event” and they are believed to have been victims of a “random” attack by a man later shot dead by police.

Also: Queensland police say alleged Brisbane double-murder being investigated as ‘terrorism  event’ (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 18 – Queensland police say they are treating the alleged murder of an elderly Brisbane couple, and the subsequent police shooting of a man on a motorway, as “a terrorism incident”.

Also: Linking double homicide to terrorism ‘premature’, says shot man’s family (Brisbane Times)
Dec 19 – The family of suspected murderer Raghe Abdi, who was shot dead by police on a Queensland motorway this week, say the 22-year-old was not radicalised but had mental health issues.

Killer’s brother gets more jail time for New Year terror attack plan (The Age, Melbourne)
Dec 18 – An aspiring terrorist who planned to kill New Year’s revellers at Melbourne’s Federation Square has had his prison term increased by six years on appeal.

Victims of racist attacks fear reoccurrence as Australia launches inquiry into right-wing extremism (ABC News)
Dec 18 – Anam Javed was shopping for vegetables at her local supermarket when a man ripped her hijab off her head.


To pray or not to pray: Qld leaders reveal stance on prayers before Parliament (Brisbane Times)
Dec 14 – Should Queensland MPs be praying at the start of every day?


Conversion bill: churches fear state overreach on religion (The Age, Melbourne)
Dec 15 – (Opinion: Barney Zwartz) Most Victorian churches are intensely concerned about legislation the state government is rushing through Parliament without consultation to ban so-called conversion therapy to change sexual orientation.

Also: Churches’ fears for conversion bill are unfounded (The Age, Melbourne)
Dec 16 – (Opinion: Timothy Jones) The Victorian government’s bill to ban LGBTQ+ conversion practices has raised confusion and disquiet in some religious communities about potential threats to their religious freedoms.

Women speak out against controversial religious Sydney drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre  (ABC News)
Dec 16 – Five days into her stay at the Healing House, Rania Bazzi called her lawyer in hysterics.