Aussie school blocks religious group that claims to free children from autism-causing demons

The controversial group had announced a series of events in Australia.

The Queensland Department of Education has spoken out after a controversial religious group that says it can "free" people of autism, cancer and homosexuality promoted an indoctrination event at a Brisbane school.

The Last Reformation (TLR), an evangelical Christian church founded by Danish baker-turned-pastor Torben Sondergaard, angered locals by announcing it would hold a "Kickstart" at a public high school next month.

"Am I reading this right: a religious group that performs child exorcism is travelling to Australia and has been allowed to use Cavendish Road State High School to recruit followers?" a concerned resident asked online, sparking a firestorm of complaints from community members.

Baptism by religious group The Last Reformation
Torben Sondergaard, founder of The Last Reformation religious group, says the power of prayer can cast out demons that cause illnesses, autism and homosexuality. Source: YouTube

Autism and exorcism

TLR, has been described in previous reports as a "cult" — although the group rejects this label — has made headlines over the years following concerns that their teachings and practices were sending "dangerous" messages about conditions such as autism.

In an interview with Spain's The Local in 2016, Mr Sondergaard clarified he does not claim to "heal" autism but instead, "frees" people of the "demons" that cause it.

"It happened in Australia to a nine-year-old-girl who suffered autism. She was freed from demons and she was happy," Mr Sondergaard said. "It wasn't something shocking like a big man holding her down. She was with her mother and we all prayed and the demon was cast out and she was happy and the mother was happy."

The claim prompted autism advocacy groups to slam Mr Sondergaard and TLR for "targeting vulnerable people" by saying those with autism have demons inside them.

The group announced a series of training events — or "Kickstarts" — in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide this September. These events are meetings where "people learn about what the gospel is and how to share it, how to obey Jesus when it comes to healing the sick and casting out demons, and how to be led by the Holy Spirit," Mr Sondergaard explained in his book Kickstart Package.

Mr Sondergaard is currently in detention in the US after he was arrested in July 2022 for alleged gun smuggling – an accusation that TLR vehemently denies.

The Last Reformation baptism
The Last Reformation says its Kickstart events equip followers to heal the sick, preach the gospel, cast out demons and be led by the Spirit. Source: YouTube

Department of Education responds

A spokesperson from the Department of Education addressed concerns about TLR booking Cavendish Road State High School in a statement to Yahoo News, denying that permission to use the venue was ever granted to the group.

"Cavendish Road State High School received a request to hire the school hall from the faith group The Last Reformation for an upcoming event. This request was not accepted by the school prior to the event being publicly advertised by the group," the spokesperson said.

"The school will not be facilitating the event on school grounds and have advised the organisers to make alternate arrangements and amend promotional materials on the event location," the spokesperson added.

Events cancelled

After the Department of Education addressed TLR's request, the group announced a change of venue and has since cancelled all forthcoming events in Australia, citing "attacks and persecution".

An update on TLR's Eventbrite page states that the events couldn't go ahead as one of the church's preachers, Jón Bjarnastein, was denied a visa to enter the country, and two venues "cancelled" bookings.

"False complaints and accusations were received, mentioning that we were dangerous and that we are dangerous to children; and because of these allegations and complaints, the venue was cancelled. After this, other allegations were made that TLR is a cult and allegations of child exorcisms," TLR's statement reads.

"So from all of this, it's very clear that there are people working behind the scenes; and they seem to be working very hard to prevent us from continuing. As a result we have made the decision to cancel the upcoming Kickstarts in Australia."

The Australian branch of TLR did not directly address Yahoo's questions about its practices, instead pointing to its website for further information.

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