The exclusion of Christians


The ultimatum that forced a chief executive officer of an Australian rules football club to choose between his faith and his employment has caused widespread concern among people of faith in Australia and for good reason. 

Andrew Thorburn, a former CEO of NAB and the BNZ, lasted one day in his position at the Essendon Bombers club. This was after social media activists broke into outrage over his being chairman of City on the Hill church, which is affiliated with the Anglican church. (See story page 12). 

The issue wasn’t anything Mr Thorburn had done himself. He merely had a leadership position in a Christian church in which some sermons – a decade ago – had stated views on abortion and homosexual acts that activists objected to.  (It should be stated that linking abortion and concentration camps is problematic – as this newspaper has pointed out in a previous editorial. But the fact that abortion is a grave moral evil is a reasonably mainstream Christian belief.) He wasn’t aware of the sermons.  

The fact that NAB bank has sponsored a “pride” round in the AFL when Mr Thorburn was CEO was not enough to save him. 

Arguments from employment law specialists focused on two aspects – the right to be free from religious discrimination and the alleged conflict in values between the football club and the church which meant one could not theoretically have a leadership position in both. 

The latter prevailed and Mr Thorburn expressed his views on how worrying this development is.  

“It is troubling that faith or association with a church, mosque, synagogue or temple could render a person immediately unsuited to holding a particular role. That is a dangerous idea, one that will only reduce tolerance for others and diversity of thought and participation in our community and workplaces,” he is reported to have said after he resigned. 

The Catholic archbishops of Melbourne and Sydney both decried this attempt to exclude a person with reasonably mainstream Christian beliefs from the public sphere. 

We can see similar happenings in this country too. MP Simon O’Connor was firmly put in his place for publicly backing the Roe v Wade US Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.  

And a series of media stories picking on small Christian schools over beliefs about marriage and gender identity led to a promise from the Associate Education Minister to have an urgent review of schools’ policies on “inclusivity”. It is not surprising that the New Zealand bishops’ recent guidelines on diversity in schools followed relatively soon afterwards.  

The question for Christians is – where will it end?  

The late Francis Cardinal George of Chicago is reported to have said in 2010 that “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square”. 

Martyrdom is nothing new for Christians. Sometimes, it is preceded by lesser penalties, one of which is banishment. What happened to Mr Thorburn and instances of deplatforming or cancelling can be considered a subset of this. St Cyprian of Carthage suffered banishment for refusing to conform to Roman religious rites.  

In 258AD, the proconsul Galerius Maximus pronounced the following judgement on him: “It is the sentence of this court that Thascius Cyprianus be executed with the sword.” 

St Cyprian’s response was wonderful. He simply said: “Thanks be to God.” 

As exclusion of Christians and their views from the public square increases, Christians should remember who will ultimately have the last word. God. That is why we can love our enemies even in the face of persecution. But loving enemies does not mean admitting that they are right everywhere and at all times. 

There is a final sentence that is often left out of Cardinal George’s quote above.  It states that the successor of the prelate martyred in the public square “will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilisation, as the Church has done so often in human history”. This is our hope. 


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Michael Otto

Reader Interactions


  1. Hamish says

    This scenario has been going on for a
    long time; yet even in this late hour the
    “Catholic Leader” has written an editorial
    almost endorsing the view that there should
    be an Australian republic, without examining
    the facts involved which the above editorial
    shows very clearly as very problematic.
    An enormous number of arenas in society
    can show they originated in a Christian
    initiative, from nursing in the Crimean war
    with Florence Nightingale to education in faith.
    The crunch is the omnipresence of the Secular
    Humanist and the denial of any supernatural,
    which has seeped deeply into Catholic way of
    life. This denial is an apostasy, coming from
    an apostate religion, the state religion of
    the U.S., ably supported by “Catholic” Joe
    Biden, who severely penalised pro-lifers,
    peacefully demonstrating for a justifiable
    cause to the tune of ten years in jail and with
    fines up to $250,000.
    On the flip side of the coin is the matter of
    drugs, porn, homosexuality, euthanasia
    and abortion which Catholics
    largely ignore, yet these continue to white ant
    their church and their society. It is another case
    of Fabian socialism, slowly eroding their
    orthodoxy, until it seriously questions even
    their Catholic Catechism. German Clerics do
    not seem to realise the damage they have done
    to faith, by simply siding with the enemy, and
    their country is now suffering, particularly
    with the German fertility rate so low. The EU
    does not seem to realise it is destroying the ethic
    with its “pro-choice” outlook, which seriously
    questions the Catholic faith of Poland, now
    visible in street gatherings saying the rosary.
    Cardinal Pell suffered 406 days in jail. What
    for? So that the social left could gain a “high
    moral ground” it needed? Yes, the Cardinal in
    Chicago was very far-sighted. But even he with
    several others do not seem to realise the solutions
    to this apostasy is a return to fasting (twice a week)
    and deep prayer, a return to ascetical practices,
    and the resulting mysticism. TV of course has come
    and destroyed shame. So the trend appears and grows
    and it is clear that Neo-Paganism is on the rise.
    Once “The imitation of Christ” by St Thomas
    A’Kempis was second only to the bible in published
    Is that the case to day?
    Instead Harry Potter arrived to become a lead
    Is there a void to fill?

  2. Jane Lamont says

    Reading the article I concur with Pope Francis who said we have been talking about homosexuality and abortion too long. A group of Belgium bishops are now blessing gay relationships. Time to move away from Aquinas and consider Kung, Curren and others. It is 2022 not 1570.jl

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