AFL club CEO steps down, saying “My faith is not tolerated”

AFL CEO faith not tolerated

The newly appointed CEO of AFL club Essendon said he was forced to step down from the position because of his role as a church chairman, and believes his “personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square”.

Former NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn (pictured) said, “I was being required to compromise beyond a level that my conscience allowed,” after his 30-hour stint with the Melbourne AFL club ended.

“People should be able to hold different views on complex personal and moral matters, and be able to live and work together, even with those differences, and always with respect.

“Behaviour is the key.

“This is an important part of a tolerant and diverse society.”

A day after he was appointed to run the club he had supported since childhood, Mr Thorburn resigned after it emerged he was chairman of a church that has published a series of articles critical of homosexuality and abortion.

Essendon president Dave Barham said the club acted swiftly to review revelations that the City on a Hill church posted a 2013 sermon to its website that said acting on same-sex attraction was “a sin” and another likening abortion to concentration camps.

Barham said those views did not align with Essendon’s values as a safe, inclusive, diverse and welcoming club for all.

Mr Thorburn said: “Let me be clear – I love all people, and have always promoted and lived an inclusive, diverse, respectful and supportive workplace – where people are welcomed regardless of their culture, religious beliefs and sexual orientation.”

Mr Barham said, “The board made clear that despite these not being views that Andrew Thorburn has expressed personally and that were also made prior to him taking up his role as chairman, he could not continue to serve in his dual roles at the Essendon Football Club and as chairman of City on the Hill.

“I want to stress that neither the board nor Andrew was aware of the comments from the 2013 sermon until we read about them this morning.

“I also want to stress that this is not about vilifying anyone for their personal religious beliefs, but about a clear conflict of interest with an organisation whose views do not align at all with our values as a safe, inclusive, diverse and welcoming club for our staff, our players, our members, our fans, our partners and the wider community.”

Mr Thorburn said his faith had not previously led to any issues with his leading large and diverse companies.

“I was CEO of a bank that had 5000 people, I was a CEO of a bank that had 35,000 people – now I’m going to a different organisation, but in all those, there’s a diversity of people.”


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