Serving God, or Mammon?

IBM Business Centre: pic by Daniel Voyager

The Australian is attacking LGBTI activists for asking some awkward questions, framing it as an attack on Christians.

I’ve been reading a (very dull) book about Apple after Steve Jobs. A major problem that comes up time and again is finding executives who are a good ‘cultural fit’. Everyone needs to broadly share the same values and be working for the same goals if a company is to flourish.

The issue raised its head in The Australian today, with a front page story insinuating LGBTI activists Michael Barnett and Rod Swift are trying to get Mark Allaby fired from his job as a ‘managing partner’ at IBM. They are accused of targeting Allaby because he’s a Christian.

Allaby is on the board of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute, a wholly owned offshoot of the Australian Christian Lobby. He used to sit on the main board too, but was asked by his former employer, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, to step down. This followed pressure from, among others, Michael Barnett.

A PwC spokesman said

“When it comes to employee participation on ­external boards, if a conflict arises between an employee’s board role and the best interests of PwC we would request that they step down from that board.”

It’s worth noting that the ACL board and the LMI board are pretty much identical, so any ‘stepping down’ was little more than a token gesture.

The extreme anti-LGBTI animus of the ACL is well-known and extensively documented, despite Managing Director Lyle Sheltons protests to the contrary. A 2012 analysis revealed they intervened on LGBTI issues five times more than on any other, and little has changed since.

In contrast, IBM signed the recent letter lobbying Malcolm Turnbull to legalise equal marriage, as did PwC. It would seem, therefore, that Allaby is a poor cultural fit at either company.

IBM has had policies to support and protect LGBTI employees since the 1980s.

“In 2015 IBM was named, for the second year in a row, the world’s most LGBT-inclusive company by Workplace Pride, based in Amsterdam. This announcement was the result of the foundation’s Global Benchmark survey that scored large international employers for their LGBT workplace inclusion policies and practices around the world.

In addition, for the 13th consecutive year, IBM scored 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, the national benchmarking tool for corporate policies and practices related to LGBT employees. The index, released each autumn, provides an in-depth analysis and rating of large U.S. employers and their policies and practices pertinent to LGBT employees, such as equal-employment opportunity policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, employment benefits for all benefits-eligible U.S. employees, and ongoing LGBT-specific engagements that extend across the company.

IBM is also one of eight “star performers” in Stonewall’s Global Equality Index 2015.”

Contrast this with the Australian Christian Lobby, which is has a fixation almost amounting to monomania with fighting ‘the gay agenda’, and in particular, marriage equality.

Barnett’s question, therefore, is not about Allaby’s Christianty per se, but about his cultural fit with his employer. How can one of the ruling clique of the ACL also serve the corporate agenda of a strongly pro-LGBTI company like IBM? In short, the issue here is not Christianity, but hypocrisy.

The Lachlan Macquarie Institute runs extremist “Christian” indoctrination camps for promising and impressionable young Christians, placing them in political parties, the civil service, and major corporates, to try to bring these institutions more into line with “Christian” values. LMI connects them with senior “Christian” business leaders like Allaby, politicians like Eric Abetz and “Christian” academics. The students serve internships at Parliament House in “Christian” politicians offices.

The question Barnett and Swift are raising is whether someone can in good conscience simultaneously serve these two masters with their diametrically opposed philosophies and intentions. On the one hand, to “Christianise” politics and big business with one very narrow interpretation of one religion: on the other, to promote the inclusion of all races, creeds, colours, sexual orientations, gender identities and intersex statuses.

As a very committed “Christian” I think it is safe to assume Allaby will place his loyalty to his religion and its powerful lobby ahead of his loyalty to whoever happens to employ him. This is not a problem when working for an employer who shares the same values. But I think he has to be asked, does his loyalty lie with ACL/LMI, which attempts to mould and place young Christians into positions of power over everyone else, or does his loyalty lie with IBMs stated corporate philosophy of acceptance, equality, diversity and inclusion.

Which master does he serve, God, or Mammon?

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)