The following statement was provided to The Australian’s journalist Ean Higgins.
The 7.30 story Christian women told to endure domestic abuse (19 July 2017) was the result of a year-long investigation by journalist Julia Baird and Hayley Gleeson which involved interviews with dozens of survivors, church psychologists and clergy about their growing concerns that not enough is being done to stop the abuse of Christian women.
The report is part of a series by Julia Baird and Hayley Gleeson that examines domestic violence in a range of religions, including Islam, which featured in the first report of the series. Exposing the darkness within: Domestic violence and Islam was published in April 2017. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-24/confronting-domestic-violence-in-islam/8458116
All ABC content is subject to the same rigorous Editorial Policies that require reporting to be fair and balanced. The report Christian women told to endure domestic abuse meets the requirements of the ABC’s Editorial Policies in that it used relevant data, relied on good sources and was fair and balanced. The report is not an attack on Christianity but an exploration of its intersection with issues of domestic violence, a legitimate and newsworthy subject.
The ABC has a long history of reporting on domestic violence from a range of different angles. This includes the ground-breaking Lateline reports on domestic violence and child abuse in Indigenous communities and Sarah Ferguson’s Walkley Award winning series Hitting Home.
Julia Baird is an experienced journalist who has worked in Australia and overseas. She is also a recognised academic and historian who is knowledgeable about matters of religion and faith in Australia, and religion’s place in the community. Her reporting on the issues discussed is entirely appropriate given her knowledge and experience. Her full biography can be read here.
Response to questions from The Australian.1. Why didn’t the ABC report the truth: that Christianity actually saves women from abuse?The ABC did report that point – that religiosity can be a protective factor against domestic violence – in its review of the research, “Regular church attenders are less likely to commit acts of intimate partner violence”.
As part of this series, the ABC will be reporting on how all the major Christian churches in Australia are seeking to address the issue of domestic violence in their community. The ABC has collected dozens of accounts of women suffering abuse and, unfortunately, receiving a poor response from the church. But many have also sought and received excellent care, and know there are many wonderful Christian men and women working to make a difference. Our reporting also presents an excellent opportunity for churches, one that we’re pleased to hear many are taking seriously.
In addition, this is not a Christian versus secular argument; it is a conversation currently underway inside the church, as is evident by critics, counsellors, theologians, priests, and bishops quoted in the 7000-word piece on the ABC News site and the priests, synod members and churchgoers interviewed for 730.
2. Why did it instead falsely claim — and instantly believe — the falsehood that evangelical Christians are the worst abusers?We did not make any false claims, we correctly cited relevant, peer-reviewed research that has been quoted and relied upon by numerous experts in this area of religion and domestic violence. Theology professor Steven Tracy is one of, if not the most authoritative and widely cited voice on this topic in America. We do not have the figures for Australia, as pointed out in the piece. We also pointed out that regular church attendance made men less likely to be violent. Again, this has all been included in the reporting.
Professor Steven Tracy found “that evangelical men [in North America] who sporadically attend church are more likely than men of any other religious group (and more likely than secular men) to assault their wives”. Tracy cites five other studies to support his claim: Ellison and Anderson 2001; Brinkerhoff et al 1991; Ellison and Anderson 1999; Wilcox 2004; Fergusson et al 1986.
The ABC also interviewed dozens of Christian men and women in Australia and abroad whose personal experience with domestic abuse – and the Church’s response to it – supports this claim.
As Adelaide Bishop Tim Harris told the ABC: “it is well recognised that males (usually) seeking to justify abuse will be drawn to misinterpretations [of the Bible] to attempt to legitimise abhorrent attitudes.”
Furthermore, since the article was published, many women have contacted the ABC to share similar stories of abuse by men (including religious leaders) who have justified their violence – and / or women’s subordination – with scripture.
However, the ABC agrees with dozens of academics and religious groups interviewed who argue that further research into the prevalence and nature of domestic violence in religious communities is needed – especially in Australia.
3. What does Ms Guthrie say to Bolt’s claim that “the ABC is not merely at war with Christianity. This proves something worse: it is attacking the faith that most makes people civil.”The ABC is not at war with Christianity. It is reporting on domestic violence in religious communities, which it notes – and as two recent significant inquiries into domestic and family violence reported – has been under-discussed in Australia, particularity in light of the Royal Commission into Domestic Violence.
As part of its investigation into domestic violence and religion, the ABC is also examining other major religions, including Islam and Judaism.
It should be noted that clergy from the Presbyterian, Anglican and Uniting and Baptist churches have written to the ABC thanking them for their reporting.
This article was written by Nick Leys and was copied from here.