Faith leaders appalled by treatment of sports club Christian CEO

leaders appalled by treatment of Thorburn

Leaders of several churches have been appalled by the treatment of Andrew Thorburn, who was forced to resign as CEO of AFL club Essendon when sermons by the church of which he is chairman became public.

The sermons likened abortion to concentration camps and included claims that “practising homosexuality is a sin” – views which Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, said were “absolutely appalling”, “bigotry” and “intolerant”.

Daniel Andrews identifies as a Catholic.

The Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli (pictured), the state’s most senior Catholic, told the Herald Sun the premier’s comments were harmful.

“Such language pitches some members of the community against others and contributes to an unhelpful spirit of division,” Comensoli.

“It leaves ordinary people of faith questioning if they can publicly hold their committed beliefs, or even to be able to exercise leadership and service in the community.”

“It really concerns me deeply,” Comensoli told The Age. “It is quite a bizarre reality we seem to have entered into where people are being judged unworthy to lead because of some of their basic Christian beliefs.”

Adel Salman, the president of the Islamic Council of Victoria, says the episode is the “most stark example” of organisations sacrificing religious freedom at the altar of corporate image.

“Someone should not be discriminated against and ostracised because of their religious views,” Salman said. “I feel sorry for everyone involved, and I just hope this doesn’t become a commonplace occurrence.”

Thorburn quit as Essendon chief executive after club president David Barham insisted he choose between employment at the club and his volunteer position as chair of City on the Hill, an Anglican church.

Barham issued the ultimatum after the Herald Sun published extracts from a nine-year-old sermon delivered by a City on the Hill pastor which likened abortion rates to the Holocaust and urged same-sex attracted people to remain celibate.

Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne Phil Freier said his church rejected homophobia and he saw nothing in Thorburn’s reported comments which contradicted that.

Prominent workplace lawyer Josh Bornstein said that under Victorian law, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of their religious belief or activity. He said it was arguable that in delivering its ultimatum to Thorburn, Essendon breached the Equal Opportunity Act.

Comensoli said it appeared a new “litmus test” had been established for people seeking leadership roles in football and other professions, and questioned the impact this could have on ordinary people of faith.

“Are they now having to rethink how they think?” he said.

“There is a level of intrusion of this into people’s lives which I think is really concerning.”


Brisbane Times

The Guardian

CathNews New Zealand

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