The forced resignation of Essendon Football Club’s newly appointed CEO, Andrew Thorburn, because of his Christian beliefs and church involvement should concern every single Australian who believes in freedom of speech and thought.
National Director for Politics of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Wendy Francis said: “Essendon president David Barham has made it clear that Christian views, accepted by millions of everyday Australians, are contrary to the club’s values.
“The Essendon Football Club is only safe, inclusive, diverse and welcoming if you are not a practising Christian or, by extension, a practising Muslim,” she said.
Ms Francis said Mr Thorburn’s public statement in reaction to his forced resignation should be ominous for all Australians.
Mr Thorburn lamented that his “personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square, at least by some and perhaps by many.”
Francis said the club’s intolerance of Australians of faith should worry every single Essendon staff member, player, member, supporter, fan and sponsor.
“Put quite simply, their views are not welcome – if you’re coming to an Essendon match, leave your faith at the gate or don’t bother,” she said.
Ms Francis urged Victorians of faith to take careful note of Premier Daniel Andrew’s response to their beliefs.
At a press conference on Tuesday, the Premier dismissed Mr Thorburn’s Christian beliefs as appalling, intolerant, hatred, bigotry, and “just wrong”.
“Andrew Thorburn’s resignation as CEO of Essendon is a clear message that Christian and Muslim views on marriage and on human rights for the unborn will not be tolerated by Essendon Football Club, or by Premier Daniel Andrews,” Ms Francis said.
“The treatment of people such as Andrew Thorburn, Israel Folau and the Manly 7 is a stark departure from the Australian way of being able to respectfully disagree, whilst defending the right of others to freedom of thought and belief.”
Ms Francis called on political leaders from across the aisle to condemn the ill-informed comments by the Victorian Premier and to stand up against the actions of the Essendon Football Club.
“Now is the time for leadership from both major parties at a state and national level,” she said.
“Christians and Australians of faith will be watching carefully how Anthony Albanese, Peter Dutton and Matthew Guy respond to the challenge thrown out at them by Mr Andrews.”