Australian radio presenter Ben Fordham has blamed “cancel culture” for Andrew Thorburn’s decision to step down as Essendon Football Club chief executive one day after accepting the role.
Thorburn’s hiring was met with widespread backlash, including from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, after the views of his church were thrust into the spotlight.
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The 57-year-old serves as chairman of the City on a Hill church, which has previously condemned homosexuality and holds divisive views around abortion.
Almost a day after being announced as the man in charge, Thorburn officially stepped down to keep his role as chairman of the church.
“The Board of the Essendon Football Club has accepted the resignation of Andrew Thorburn as CEO,” a club statement read.
“As soon as the comments relating to a 2013 sermon from a pastor, at the City of the Hill church came to light this morning, we acted immediately to clarify the publicly espoused views on the organisation’s official website, which are in direct contradiction to our values as a Club.
“The Board made clear that, despite these not being views that Andrew Thorburn has expressed personally and that were also made prior to him taking up his role as Chairman, he couldn’t continue to serve in his dual roles at the Essendon Football Club and as Chairman of City on the Hill.
“The Board respects Andrew’s decision.”
Speaking on 2GBon Wednesday morning, Fordham argued that Thorburn had been “cancelled” because of his religious beliefs.
“What in the world is going on in Melbourne?” he fumed.
“Andrew Thorburn did not deliver the sermons — he’s the chairman of the church.
“But that didn’t matter, it’s 2022. Cancel culture is here.
“The sermons were delivered almost 10 years ago before he was in the church.
“He’s never heard those views expressed while he’s been in the church.
“Andrew Thorburn has been pushed out the door because of his religious beliefs, and he’s been cancelled because of his Christianity. There’s no other way of looking at it.”
Thorburn released a statement shortly after the news of his departure became public, blaming today’s culture for not accepting his faith and ultimately costing him the role.
The former NAB chief executive defended the church on Tuesday, adamant “different views” should be respected in the community while also pointing out he didn’t share all of his church’s beliefs.
The church has an article on its website from 2013 titled “Surviving Same Sex Attraction as a Christian”.
Thorburn distanced himself from those views and said he anticipated the public backlash after “little firestorms” surrounding his faith in his previous jobs.
In response to the revelations, Thorburn said it was “very important” his church’s strong views on abortion and homosexuality were allowed to be expressed in Australian society but called for the Bombers to judge him solely on his leadership and not his faith.
“I’ve spoken to Andrew, he’s a first class person, I regard him as a friend, and he’s got great values,” AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan told reporters.
“I’m really clear that everyone is entitled to their beliefs and their religious beliefs. But at times those beliefs can intersect the values and culture of entities, and when you’ve been asked to lead one that seems to be at odds with the beliefs of another entity you’re chairing, I think Andrew had to make a decision.
“And to be honest with you, that he went with his faith doesn’t surprise me because he’s a person of great conviction.
“In the end, I wasn’t surprised by the decision he made.”