Religion News Selection

March 5 – 12, 2023

A selection of religion news stories from Australia

(Research: Greg Spearritt)



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”.


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.


‘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.


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.


‘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.


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: 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: ‘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.