Andrew Thorburn's exit as CEO of Essendon Football Club has nothing to do with religious discrimination and everything to do with out-of-step bigotry, writes managing editor Michelle Pini.
With former PM Morrison’s rise to power, rather than the extreme racist and bigoted views of fellow Pentecostal Margaret Court, for example, simply being shunned, her association with the leader of the land emboldened other racists and bigots to spew forth their hatred with similar fervour.
This week, following his short-lived appointment as CEO of the Essendon Football Club, former NAB boss and City on a Hill megachurch chairman Andrew Thorburn – along with the aptly described “appalling” views of his cult – are in the spotlight.
As the depth of absurdity that characterised Morrison’s dictatorial reign is slowly uncovered – much, if not all, of which may be linked back to his self-professed devotion to the Pentecostal megachurch – more and more developments in evangelistic super-cults are emerging from the shadows to confront and challenge insouciant Australia.
And, as he frequently demonstrated, Morrison was firmly committed to the establishment of a "religious discrimination bill", which, if implemented, would have enshrined the "right" of members of extremist religions like his own, to be bigoted without consequence. This goal almost came to fruition.
Morrison was also partial to gifting large sums of taxpayer funds to these various churches.
So, we should be concerned. We are, after all, a secular nation with a Constitution that upholds the separation of church and state.
This does not mean that you can’t join any radical cult you fancy and still be a footy club CEO or a member of parliament. But it does mean that where your views are out of step with the views of the club, organisation or the society you inhabit, that club/organisation/state can choose to dispense with your services.
Andrew Thorburn's cult appears to have much in common with Morrison's Pentecostal "Seven Mountains" brand of worship, where prosperity and spreading the brand far and wide to achieve world domination are key.
Speaking of world domination, City on a Hill is 'a member of the Acts 29 church planting network' and:
'There are currently over 800 Acts 29 churches across 52 countries reaching people in 31 different languages.'
On prosperity, Church on a Hill espouses the following:
Invest in the mission:
God invites you to worship him in all areas of your life, even the way you spend your money. Supporting a [City on the Hill] church financially is an excellent way of doing this.
And then, of course, there are the bigoted views on sexuality, feminism and abortion.
But first, for those who may not be familiar with Andrew Thorburn’s CV, here are a few career highlights:
2014 - 2019
- CEO of NAB.
- NAB extorted hundreds of millions from thousands of people under his watch.
- NAB did not stop taking money from dead customers, even after the issue was identified and the other major banks had commenced the remediation process.
- Thorburn received multi-million-dollar bonuses for his work in knowingly taking money for services not rendered, from thousands of people — both still breathing and departed.
- While CEO of NAB, Thorburn joined City on the Hill evangelical megachurch — which had already openly condemned homosexuality and abortion. (Those condemnations may still be found on its website.)
- Was appointed chairman of the board of City on a Hill and a City on a Hill “warden” (date of appointments unclear).
- Branded Labor's push for a royal commission into the finance sector "a serious distraction", and argued it was unnecessary and potentially damaging to bank confidence.
- Told the Banking Royal Commission: “At the time, I just don’t think we saw it with the clarity we do now”.
- Tried to pin the blame for the ongoing multi-million-dollar scam on a former bank executive, who had been made redundant.
- Appointed to the task force to find a new coach and CEO for the AFL Essendon Football Club.
- Thorburn “found” a new Essendon CEO, by appointing himself to the role.
- Claimed not to hold the same views on homosexuality and abortion as the megachurch of which he is chairman.
- Resigned as CEO of Essendon FC the following day.
- Tried to blame his resignation on religious discrimination.
A snapshot of the City on a Hill’s views on homosexuality reveals the following:
Lust is a sin, sex outside of marriage is a sin, practicing [sic] homesexuality is a sin...
And on abortion:
Even women who have raised children conceived through their rape have not regretted not aborting their child. On the other hand, 80% of those who have aborted their child have regretted it. [No statistical source is cited for either of these claims.]
And still on abortion:
'Whereas today we look back at sadness and disgust over concentration camps, future generations will look back with sadness at the legal murder of hundreds of thousands human beings every day through medicine and in the name of freedom.'
Despite claiming he doesn't share these particular views of the organisation he chairs, Thorburn said that while he understands that "some of these views are offensive to people and upset people", such "different views" should be respected.
Sorry, Andrew, intolerance and bigotry should not be respected.
Victorian State Premier and Essendon supporter, Dan Andrews, described this bigotry as “absolutely appalling”.
Meanwhile, Victorian Liberal Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, who currently presides over a party facing allegations of Pentecostal branch stacking "infiltration", piped up with the following:
“What are we now banning people from going to church...?"
And then, perhaps in an attempt to be inclusive added:
Banning people from going to a synagogue, banning people from going to a mosque?
Where have we got? This is ridiculous.
Not that Premier Andrews banned anyone from going to churches, synagogues or mosques.
But just like his tireless and baseless accusations against Andrews during pandemic lockdowns, such factual details did not stop Guy from warming to his subject:
“Football clubs can hire who they choose. I don’t see, if I was the premier, why I would be telling people who they can hire and fire; why would you?”
Not that Andrews told the club to fire Thorburn, either. But as we know, Matthew "King Arthur" Guy has a problem separating fact from fiction.
Peter Dutton also weighed in, demanding Thorburn be reinstated and claiming religious discrimination was afoot:
“I think there has been a very egregious attack on an individual because of his religious beliefs.”
The Essendon Football Club did, however, appear to react to the uproar from its fans and the wider community over Thorburn's appointment, one of whom is Premier Andrews, and some of whom may be homosexual or value the right to have an abortion but all of whom live in 2022. Where gay marriage and abortions are legal. And where bigotry won't be stomached.
This is an abridged version of an editorial originally published in the IA weekly newsletter. Subscribe now to read the full version online in the IA members-only area.
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