New wave of conservatism as migrants bolster Catholic Church

Angela Shanahan - The Australian

In 2003, religious writer Chris McGillion authored a book on the Australian Catholic Church called A Long Way from Rome in which he argued that while the church in Australia had changed radically, Rome had not. Ironically, McGillion's liberal analysis was published just before a stern warning from Pope Benedict that Australia was one of the few countries in the world where true secularism had taken hold, the church being pushed out of the "public square", and possibly in danger of extinction. Either way, the events of the past few years, and particularly in the Queensland diocese of Toowoomba this month, would seem to confirm it is more than the tyranny of distance that separates the Australian Catholic Church from Rome.

Curriculum head warns against axing religion

Michael Bachelard - SMH

The soon-to-be-introduced national curriculum may not include a religious education subject. The man in charge of Australia's national curriculum insists there is no problem with the way religious instruction is taught in Victoria, and warns that any moves to axe religion classes could drive parents out of the public system and into private schools. Professor Barry McGaw, the chairman of the national curriculum authority, told The Sunday Age: ''I don't see anything wrong with a special religious instruction that operates precisely on [the current] grounds. If we deny any place to religion in public education and wish to make it entirely [secular], we are actually basing it on a particular world view.

Cate Blanchett's TV row over carbon tax ad

Brenden Hills - Sunday Herald

Cate Blanchett has sparked outrage in the community with her decision to front an advertising campaign promoting the Federal Government's controversial carbon tax. The millionaire Hollywood actor has been accused of being out of touch by spruiking the benefits of the tax that she can afford to pay, unlike many already hard-up Australians. The 42-year-old has teamed with Packed to the Rafters actor Michael Caton to be the faces of a series of TV ads branded "Say Yes", which will screen nationally from tonight. The ads are aimed at convincing the average Australian that a carbon tax is a good idea, even if it is tipped to raise the cost of living.

Tony and Julia battle for air with Mal and Kev show

David Penberthy - The Punch

They both have the unpleasant distinction of being among our shortest-lived political leaders – in the case of Malcolm Turnbull, just 13 months as Opposition Leader, in the case of Kevin Rudd, just two years and six months as Prime Minister. The political decline of both men was intertwined with their shared belief in climate change and support for an emissions trading scheme. They also have in common a somewhat imperious manner which grated with their parliamentary colleagues, who have often described them as condescending and aloof. It is unlikely that either man will ever lead their party again. Despite that reality, right now, the two biggest internal problems confronting the Labor Government and Liberal Opposition hinge on both men.

Plainly, the public backs smokes plan

Cameron Houston, Jill Stark - The Age

Health campaigners say most Australians support plain packaging for cigarettes, despite efforts by the powerful tobacco industry to mobilise public and political opposition against the Gillard government plan. With public consultation on the landmark bill due to close next week, a Newspoll survey has revealed 59 per cent of respondents support the proposal, while 24 per cent remain opposed. With 17 per cent of respondents undecided, Cancer Council Victoria will launch a national campaign today in a bid to discredit claims by cigarette manufacturers that plain packaging will lead to a surge in counterfeit tobacco. British America Tobacco will return fire in a fresh round of advertisements with the tagline ''when everything's the same, how do you spot the fake?''

Foreign 'churches' linked to prostitution

Kim Macdonald - The West Australian

The Immigration Department is conducting a secret investigation into links between international churches and prostitution - amid allegations some ministries were importing sex workers. Federal Liberal MP Don Randall, who chaired a joint standing committee on immigration, prompted the inquiry after claims from people closely connected to the Indonesian community that some ministries were fronts for sex services. Mr Randall said his contacts claimed these Indonesian "churches" had arranged for the importation of young girls on student visas. It was believed that, as well as studying, the girls also worked as prostitutes and erotic masseurs. Investigations by Mr Randall's office and The Weekend West have so far linked founders of an international ministry, which is now deregistered, to a massage parlour which provides some sex services.

Egyptian Military Court prosecutes only Christians in Muslim church attacks

Assyrian International News Agency

A Military court in Egypt has sentenced three Christian Copts to 5-years imprisonment on charges of possession of firearms and pocket knives. The Court released all other Muslims and Copts arrested following clashes on May 19 over the re-opening of St. Mary and St. Abraham churches in Ain Shams West. Mr. Hitham Refaat Shaker, one of the defense attorneys, said in an interview on May 23 that he is sure the charges were fabricated against the Copts. "It is impossible to imagine the incident as described by the officer who wrote the report, that the Christians threw stones at other Christians in order to accuse Muslims of doing it"

As the family goes, so goes the economy

Carolyn Moynihan - Mercatornet

According to a New York Times editorial this week, “As Housing Goes, So Goes the Economy”. It is a call to the United States government to intervene in the housing market which, nearly two years after the housing bubble burst, is still in trouble and will not, says the Times, fix itself. That may be so in the short term, but a report published today by the Family Research Council suggests that the long-term fix for the economy must come from another quarter. Tweaking foreclosure rules may make it possible for more people to keep their homes, but it is the relationships within the home that ultimately determine prosperity. It is more the case that, “As the family goes, so goes the economy”.

Is there scientific evidence to prove the presence of God?

Herald Sun

A wide-ranging Oxford study has concluded belief in God is part of human nature. And we are naturally disposed to believe in a divine power and that some vital part of us survives death. The theory is that human thought processes are rooted in religious concepts rather than ideas learned from experience because they provide some social benefit. The co-director of the three-year international study, Prof Roger Trigg, said the research showed religion was not just something for a peculiar few to do on Sundays.

Asylum-seeker children 'self-harming'

The Australian

Asylum-seeker children are attempting self-harm and even suicide in a Darwin immigration detention centre, a key medical group representative says. Although the government is attempting to place all asylum-seeking children and families in community housing some are still held in detention centres. And in Darwin, this has resulted in young children presenting to doctors after trying to hurt themselves, the Australian Medical Association's Northern Territory president Paul Bauert said. "We have had children under the age of 10 attempting self-harm," Dr Bauert said today.