The dire need for a federal religious discrimination law: Bishop Michael Stead of South Sydney



All Australians should be deeply shocked by the discriminatory treatment of Andrew Thorburn. According to press reports, Thorburn was forced to resign a day after being appointed CEO of Essendon Football Club based on the prevailing religious beliefs of a church with which he is associated. Thorburn should not have had to choose between his religious beliefs and serving the football club he loves and is so eminently qualified to serve.

Thorburn was forced to resign after activists scoured Thorburn Church’s sermon archives and discovered sermons over the past decade that were not written by him or that he was unaware of. Some of these sermons condemned abortion and described homosexual sexual acts as sinful. These moral and religious beliefs are not “extreme” – they are mainstream beliefs that have been held for centuries by a wide variety of religious groups, including Christians, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs, and certainly in this regarding abortion, they are also considered moral opinions. by many non-religious Australians.

The freedom to hold and express religious belief is a fundamental human right, to which Australia is committed as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 18 of the ICCPR guarantees the right to hold a religious belief and to manifest it in worship, observance, practice and teaching. It further guarantees that “no one shall be subject to constraints which would impair his freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of his choice”. It appears that Andrew Thorburn was forced to resign due to his religious beliefs.

It is totally hypocritical that Essendon Football Club has engaged in this religious discrimination as an expression of its commitment to “eradicate all discrimination based on race, sex, religion, gender, identity or sexual orientation, or a physical or mental disability”. the club said in its statement. The club’s action promotes discrimination based on religion. Freedom for Faith notes that no one has alleged that Thorburn discriminated against anyone who is gay or lesbian or who had an abortion, including running several very large organizations in CEO roles throughout his tenure. career. He was kicked out of his new role solely because of moral and religious views expressed on a Church website he is associated with.

In a statement by Dave Barham on behalf of the Essendon Football Club Board, Barham says “Essendon is committed to providing an inclusive, diverse and safe club where everyone is welcome and respected”. This is manifestly false. This action shows that there is no commitment on the part of the Essendon board to embrace a diversity of moral or religious views. To what extent will players, staff and fans who hold these religious or moral views, or who are members of the same Church as Thorburn, feel welcome and included at Essendon?

Australia has a long and proud tradition of respecting a diversity of views, especially on complex personal and moral issues. Despite profound differences, we were able to live and work together with respect. But no longer in Victoria, it seems.

Thorburn said he was forced to resign because “it has become clear to me that my personal Christian faith is not tolerated or allowed in the public square, at least by some and perhaps by many.”

It is also very disturbing that the premier of a state, who has been elected to form a government for all the people of that state, has seen fit to dismiss the religious beliefs of a significant number of people in his state as being “absolutely appalling”, “hatred” and “bigotry”. It was also inappropriate for the Prime Minister to pressure Essendon’s board, with his comments that he was a ‘somewhat disappointed supporter of Essendon’ due to Thorburn’s appointment given his views religions, and that “the appointment of a CEO in a club is a matter for the board of directors of that football club”.

Freedom for Faith calls on the Albanian government to deliver on its election promise to urgently implement a Federal Religious Discrimination Bill, and to do so in a way that protects all Australian citizens from all types of religious discrimination, defamation and coercion that Andrew Thorburn experienced.

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