Complaint by Hillsong about Mercy Ministries Media Reports – Dismissed

September 10, 2008

THE Press Council has dismissed a complaint from Benjamin Isaac against the Herald. The ruling said:

Mr Isaac [complained about] aspects of a series of articles about Mercy Ministries’ work with women in crisis, its links with Hillsong Church, and related matters.

In particular, Mr Isaac took issue with an article not concerned directly with Mercy Ministries, but which reported a letter of support for a development proposal in Rosebery by the Hillsong Church. The letter of support came from Caroline Bateson in her role as manager of the South Sydney Police and Community Youth Club. Ms Bateson was a former volunteer worker for Hillsong.

The article included quotes from the club’s chief executive confirming that Ms Bateson ceased working for Hillsong before becoming club manager, that the club had written similar supporting letters for other community organisations, and that other Hillsong members had been club volunteers, but no longer worked there. Sydney’s Deputy Mayor was quoted saying the letter breached the club’s charter and that Ms Bateson had been an active recruiter for Hillsong before taking up her club management role.

Mr Isaac complained that the article insinuated that Ms Bateson had infiltrated the club to act as a Hillsong agent. He also said describing the proposed development as “controversial” was a prejudicial remark, and that the phrase “Hillsong link” in the report’s headline was misleading as the word “link” was usually associated with crime.

Mr Isaac also complained that the article lacked balance and breached a Press Council principle concerning gratuitous emphasis on people’s religion. He wrote two letters to the newspaper, neither of which was published.

The newspaper responded that the articles on the Mercy Ministries had been meticulously researched, used both named and anonymous sources, included relevant associations to religious organisations, and were clearly in the public interest. Officials from Mercy Ministries had been quoted, as had several independent health professionals. The newspaper had published an opinion piece by Peter Irvine, a senior board member of Mercy Ministries, along with a significant number of letters on the matter.

While the newspaper quoted several women who alleged poor treatment or abuse by Mercy Ministries, it also published the favourable remarks of a woman who had graduated from the Mercy program, although information about successful outcomes was not forthcoming from the organisation itself.

Concerning the story about Ms Bateson’s letter of support for the Hillsong development, the newspaper outlined the numerous attempts its journalist had made to contact and meet Ms Bateson, all of which had been rebuffed. Various relevant parties to the matter had been contacted for comment. The newspaper argued that, as well as the clear public interest in the development, it was extremely unusual for a Police and Community Youth Club actively to support a development proposal, especially one of the size and controversy involved.

The Press Council found no breach of its principles of the kind suggested by Mr Isaacs.

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2008/09/09/1220857547504.html

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3 Responses to “Complaint by Hillsong about Mercy Ministries Media Reports – Dismissed”

  1. Bad headline should read Hillsong’s complaints dropped or some such. The wording makes it seem as if complaints against hillsong were dropped.

  2. Thanks Sean,
    your absolutely right..cut and paste gets you in the end..
    might I say I have enjoyed reading your site for quite a while..

    great articles and well managed..

  3. It’s disappointing the SMH didn’t choose a better headline. Hopefully people will actually read the article and understand it though.

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