Religion News Selection

Dec 8 – 15, 2019

A selection of religion news stories from Australia

(Research: Greg Spearritt)



Sexual abuse survivor rebukes Hillsong head (The Saturday Paper)
Dec 14 – In July last year, Brett Sengstock – a survivor of child abuse perpetrated by Hillsong founder Frank Houston – thought he was going to die.

Catholic Brother stands trial for the sexual abuse of his ‘favourite student’ in the late 1960s (ABC News)
Dec 15 – A South Australian Catholic Brother who allegedly subjected students to extreme violence and corporal punishment in the late 1960s is standing trial for sexually abusing one of his “favourite students”.


Malka Leifer case: outrage at Israeli court ‘farce’ after panel no-show delays psych hearing (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 11 – Israeli court proceedings have been condemned as an “absolute farce” after a hearing in the Malka Leifer case was postponed for a month because the psychiatric panel due to report on her fitness to stand trial said it was unaware of the hearing date.


Saudi women no longer need to be segregated at restaurants (Brisbane Times)
Dec 9 – Riyadh: Women in Saudi Arabia will no longer need to use separate entrances from men or sit behind partitions at restaurants in the latest measure announced by the government that upends a major hallmark of conservative restrictions that had been in place for decades.

Prominent anti-abortion chief warned of Muslims ‘replacing’ Christian Europeans (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 11 – The chief executive of Obria, an anti-choice and anti-contraception organisation that has been awarded millions of dollars in grants by the Trump administration, once said that Christianity was dying out thanks to contraception and abortion, leading Europeans to be “replaced” by immigrant Muslims.

Indian Parliament passes ‘anti-Muslim’ citizenship law (Brisbane Times)
Dec 13 – Delhi: India’s Hindu nationalist government has won parliamentary approval for a far-reaching citizenship law that critics say undermines the country’s secular constitution by excluding Muslims.

Religious Violence

‘Menstruation huts’ still widespread in Nepal, despite them being outlawed (ABC News)
Dec 10 – Despite Nepal’s criminalisation of the practice, 77 per cent of Nepalese girls are being forced to sleep in so-called menstruation huts during their periods, a British-led study has found.


Florida woman forced to change ‘Hail Satan’ shirt on American Airlines flight (
Dec 9 – A Florida Satanist was forced to change her shirt praising Beelzebub on a recent flight.

California nativity scene displaying Jesus in a cage causes stir (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 10 – A nativity installation depicting Mary, Joseph and Jesus separated in cages has caused a stir in a southern California city, a few hundred kilometers from the US border with Mexico.

The Notre Dame fire prompted an orgy of wallet-waving. Is the cathedral now rising from the ashes? (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 13 – Barely had the dust settled on Notre Dame Cathedral, after the horrifying fire in April, than the world’s architects started cranking out visions of how the famous spire could be rebuilt.


Controversial religious discrimination bill overhauled as Government releases new draft (ABC News)
Dec 10 – The Federal Government has overhauled its proposed religious discrimination laws in an effort to win over faith leaders who rebuked the Coalition’s earlier attempts.

Also: Coalition’s revamped bill allows religious organisations to discriminate against staff (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 10 – The federal government will enshrine religious institutions’ ability to discriminate against staff on the basis of religion but has narrowed a controversial proposal to allow medical practitioners to object to treating patients.

Also: Vinnies refuses to be ‘used’ to promote Coalition’s new religious discrimination bill (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 11 – The St Vincent de Paul Society has asked not to be “used” to promote a new Coalition proposal to allow “public benevolent institutions” to discriminate against prospective staff based on religion, stating that it has no need to do so for its commercial activities.

Also: Do unto others? Power of religions to discriminate must have limits (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 12 – (Opinion: Jonathon Hunyor) Those who had hoped that Human Rights Day this week might be the time for new and improved human rights protections in the government’s revised Religious Discrimination Bill will have been disappointed. The release of the second exposure draft of the Bill does not address the serious concerns of groups across the community who stand to have their rights eroded.


Evangelical churches believe men should control women. It can lead to domestic violence (ABC News)
Dec 9 – Jane* was a member of Australia’s evangelical Christian community, and throughout her marriage she heard many sermons on honouring a husband’s authority.

Brian Houston ‘prays for Trump’ during official visit to White House (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 10 – Scott Morrison’s spiritual mentor, the Hillsong founder Brian Houston, has “prayed for president Trump” while on an official visit to the White House for a faith briefing with other religious leaders.

UN’s case on Rohingya genocide raises questions about Australian cash (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 11 – (Opinion: Rebecca Barber) In a momentous leap forward for international justice, Myanmar State Counsellor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi stood before the International Court of Justice in the Hague overnight on Wednesday, Australian time, to defend allegations of genocide.

What this country really needs is freedom from religion (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 13 – (Opinion: Wendy Squires) Like so many atheists, I protect and condone an individual’s right to believe whatever it is that floats their boat under one very strict rule – do not, under any circumstances, push your beliefs on to me.

Charles Darwin University city campus will be ‘cursed’ after cutting down historic tree, elder says (ABC News)
Dec 15 – A Larrakia elder says the proposed Charles Darwin University city campus will be “cursed” after university contractors removed a remaining historic milkwood tree in the early hours of Sunday morning.