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Sandilands’ ‘vile’ Virgin Mary comments spark probe

Exclusive: Controversial radio jock Kyle Sandilands is being investigated by the ACT Human Rights Commission over complaints his "vile" comments about the Virgin Mary amounted to religious vilification and severely ridiculed Christians and their beliefs.

A complaint has been filed by a member of Australia's large Maronite Catholic community, Khalil Farah, who has complained of being deeply stressed and traumatised by Sandilands comments.

The complaint said Sandilands comments were "vile, offensive, woefully ignorant and religiously charged".

"The blessed Virgin Mary is considered a spiritual mother by millions of Australians within both the Christian and Muslim communities. The comments constitute religious vilification, inciting severe ridicule of both Christians and Muslims alike by virtue of their religious beliefs," said the complaint.

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Kyle Sandilands is no stranger to controversy. Picture: James Gourley/The Daily Telegraph
Kyle Sandilands is no stranger to controversy. Picture: James Gourley/The Daily Telegraph

Mr Farah who lives in Canberra said "I have suffered much stress, trauma and loss of sleep as a result of the comments made by Mr Sandilands. I was raised in a very devout Christian household and consider myself to be a devout follower of the blessed Virgin Mary. Mr Sandilands statements were hurtful, distressing and humiliating. I was sickened to hear what he said, and I know that many members of my community were and remain traumatised by them. His comments about the Virgin Mary severely ridiculed Christians and their beliefs. This was made worse when I heard people defending what he said, suggesting it was 'just a joke'. After some time of processing all of this in my mind, I decided that I must take action …"

Protesters gather outside KIIS FM headquarters condemning Kyle Sandilands comments about Christians and the Virgin Mary. Picture: David Swift
Protesters gather outside KIIS FM headquarters condemning Kyle Sandilands comments about Christians and the Virgin Mary. Picture: David Swift

Sandilands comments caused outrage and led to protests outside of the KIIS FM studios and led to joint statements from Muslim and Christian leaders condemning the statements and Sandilands initial apology.

However, after Sandilands apologised again, religious leaders including the leader of the Maronite Church, Bishop Antoine Tarabay, accepted his apology.

Sandilands would not comment as he has not yet been contacted by the ACT Human Rights Commission.

Lawyer Rick Mitry said he had received a number of complaints from people in NSW about the comments made last month, but advised the complainants were unable to take action because NSW does not have religious vilification laws.

Kyle Sandilands and his partner Imogen Anthony. Picture: Toby Zerna
Kyle Sandilands and his partner Imogen Anthony. Picture: Toby Zerna

However, Mr Mitry said he was able to act for Mr Farah because the ACT does have religious vilification laws which apply to ACT residents and cover offences outside of the Territory.

Reactions to the comments by the shock jock have gone viral particularly in Lebanon where the Virgin Mary is a revered mother figure across religions.

Thousands of people have shared online social media videos attacking Sandilands including one from angry grandmothers in Christian towns in the north of Lebanon, denouncing Sandilands in colourful Arabic language.

Western Sydney grandmother, Mary, who is named after the Virgin Mary and has a statue of Mary in her frontyard, told her grandchildren "not to listen to the radio any more".

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Protesters outside KIIS FM headquarters. Picture: David Swift
Protesters outside KIIS FM headquarters. Picture: David Swift

Sandilands who presents Sydney's top rating FM breakfast show with co-host Jackie O has just renewed his contract with the station until 2022 in a deal which is reportedly worth close to $7 million a year.

Mr Farah's complaint has asked that the Commission make a finding that Sandilands comments constituted religious vilification; that Mr Sandilands was guilty of reprehensible conduct; be ordered to pay a fine by way of contribution to a Christian charitable organisation.

Mr Farah has also asked that the Commission to make an order that Sandilands not repeat or continue to engage in religious vilification; and that Sandilands perform a stated reasonable act to redress any loss or damage suffered by the applicant because of the unlawful act and that he pay compensation for any loss or damage suffered by the applicant because of the unlawful act.

If the complaint is not resolved through conciliation, it could be taken to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) for hearing and determination of the complaint.



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