Latest World News

Anglican bishop lashes Essendon as pressure ramps up on club’s president

11

A debate over religious freedom has erupted after former banking executive Andrew Thorburn’s reign as Essendon chief executive lasted just 24 hours.

The Bombers accepted Thorburn’s resignation on Tuesday amid backlash over his role as chairman of the Melbourne-based City on a Hill church.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Bombers in discrimination storm over shock CEO exit.

Analysis, local footy and the biggest moments, Seven and 7plus are the home of footy shows for every fan. Stream them all for free on 7plus >>

In sermons from 2013 – a year before Mr Thorburn became chairman – the church described practising homosexuality as a sin and likened abortion to the murder of people in concentration camps.

The former NAB boss opted to stay with the church when told it was untenable to remain in both roles.

If you’d like to view this content, please adjust your .

To find out more about how we use cookies, please see our Cookie Guide.

In a social media post hours later, Mr Thorburn said he had always promoted inclusivity but it was clear his personal Christian faith was “not tolerated or permitted in the public square, at least by some and perhaps by many”.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the church’s comments on homosexuality and abortion were abominable but did not reflect Thorburn’s views.

“The fact that an individual can be sacked from a position because of his religious belief doesn’t have any place in our country,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“Whether it’s Christianity, whether it’s Judaism, whether you’re part of a mosque, or a temple – it doesn’t matter. We don’t tolerate discrimination against anybody on that basis.”

City on a Hill is described on its website as having been “planted in 2007 as an Anglican congregation”.

Sydney Anglican Bishop Michael Stead claimed the City on a Hill sermons regarding abortion and homosexuality were “not extreme” and reflected beliefs held by various faiths.

Andrew Thorburn during the Royal Commission into banking misconduct in 2018. Credit: AAPIMAGE

In a statement for the Freedom of Faith group, Bishop Stead said Australians should be shocked by Thorburn’s treatment and called on the Albanese government to urgently implement a promised religious discrimination bill.

“He has been pushed out of his new role solely because of the moral and religious views expressed on a church website with which he is associated,” the bishop said.

“This action shows there is no commitment by the Essendon board to embrace a diversity of moral or religious views.”

Thorburn’s resignation was welcomed by the Purple Bombers group, which advocates for Essendon’s LGBTQI supporters and players.

Andrew Thorburn’s resignation as Bombers boss equates to religious discrimination, opposition says. (Ellen Smith/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has described the church’s published views as “absolutely appalling”.

The Albanese government has promised laws to guarantee religious freedom but has not set a timeframe for their introduction.

Five Liberals crossed the floor earlier this year to block then-prime minister Scott Morrison’s religious discrimination laws over insufficient protections for LGBTQI people.

Meanwhile, the new club’s president, David Barham, is feeling pressure with the club being widely criticised following the bungled appointment.

Barham took responsibility for reference checking Thorburn, but called the appointment a “misstep” that would be easily fixed.

But former Essendon chairman Paul Little said the club was in “chaos”.

“The mistakes that have been – there are just too many, quite frankly,” Little said.

Essendon great Matthew Lloyd said he doesn’t like it when the person in charge of finding the CEO becomes the CEO, as was the case with Thorburn.

“I’m sort of gobsmacked, to be honest. It’s embarrassing … and another hit on the club,” Lloyd said on the AFL’s Trade Radio.

If you’d like to view this content, please adjust your .

To find out more about how we use cookies, please see our Cookie Guide.

Source: 7News