The former head of the Australian Christian Lobby, Lyle Shelton, says ClubsNSW CEO John Landis should not have been dismissed for claiming the state premier’s gaming reforms were driven by his “Catholic gut.”
“Why can’t we just debate the merits of an issue? Why does someone who offends an identity group have to walk the plank?” he said in a statement to The Epoch Times.
“Landis’ anti-Catholic bigotry was wrong, but he should not have been sacked. We actually need more ‘Catholic gut’ instinct in politics, not less,” said the now-director of Family First Australia.
“Cancel culture has gone too far.”
Contention Around Cashless Gaming Reform
The New South Wales (NSW) Liberal-National government has been pushing to mandate a cashless gaming card in an effort to control problem gambling and money laundering in the state’s registered clubs—which derive much of their revenue from pokie machines.
There are estimated to be around 90,000 pokie machines throughout the state.
The issue has emerged as a key battleground in the upcoming March state election after an NSW Crime Commission report found billions of dollars from illicit drug sales were being spent on pokie machines.
In response, state Premier Dominic Perrottet has been pushing for a cashless gaming card to be introduced that could potentially limit the amount of money spent on pokies per day.
The industry body for registered clubs in the state has argued strongly against the move.
Yet in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Landis said, “I think it’s fair to say that the premier has very little understanding of this issue and has acted from his conservative Catholic gut, rather than based on evidence.”
Landis Quickly Walks Back Comments
Landis quickly apologised, with both sides of politics in the state condemning his comments.
Perrottet called it “incredibly inappropriate and offensive to people of faith.”
“We live in a tolerant state, a tolerant country, and there is no place for comments like that in a modern Australia,” he told reporters in comments obtained by AAP.
Opposition leader Chris Minns at the time called for Landis to resign.
“We just can’t have a situation in NSW politics where … people’s ultimate motives are questioned on the basis of their religion when there is absolutely no evidence of it,” he told 2GB.
Head of the Wesley Mission, Stu Cameron, responded by saying his work was motivated by faith.
“For the record, it’s my Christian faith that compels my commitment to gambling reform,” he wrote on Twitter.
In a statement, Landis said, “I want to make it clear that in answering the question, I misspoke and should not have referred to the premier’s faith.
“This was not a premeditated comment or an intentional attack on the premier personally, rather it was a poor attempt to explain that there is a lack of evidence for the policy and the premier is a moral person who intrinsically wants to help those who are causing themselves harm,” he said.
The Board of the industry body moved quickly to end his employment.
“After careful consideration, the Board has made the decision to end Mr Landis’ employment with ClubsNSW with immediate effect,” the board said on the same day.
“The Board acknowledges Josh Landis’ exemplary service to the industry over more than 15 years through some very difficult times. We genuinely wish him all the best on his future endeavours.”
Sympathy for the Church
Meanwhile, Shelton said the uproar against Landis seemed to indicate a change in the public mood to towards the Catholic church following the treatment of the late-Cardinal George Pell and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “hit job” on Opus Dei-affiliated schools.
“Just as Andrew Thorburn should not have been sacked as CEO from Essendon Football Club because of his association with Christian views on marriage and human rights for the unborn, neither should Landis have been sacked for commenting on the Premier’s religious motivations,” he said.
Shelton said that even the Australian Greens bring their Mother Earth beliefs into Parliament, meaning that some form of belief system drives all people.
“There’s nothing wrong with a religious motivation. In fact, Christian charity has been one of the greatest forces for good when applied in politics—just ask the African slaves of William Wilberforce’s time,” he said.