I know it’s almost un-Australian of me but I don’t follow sport. Maybe if a grand final is occurring and my state happens to be involved I might watch it. Maybe during the Olympics I’ll watch an event or two. Don’t get me wrong, I want Australia to win… I just don’t care to watch it. So it’s fair to say I almost didn’t know who Israel Folau was a few months ago.
Israel, until recently, played for the the state team and was considered one of the best Australian players. And then, like certain bakers and florists around the world, the expression of his Christian faith got him into serious trouble with a vocal minority, and given a life-ban from his career; costing him a $4 million dollar contract.
On his personal instagram he posted this:
(Only partial text is displayed. He also quoted Acts 2:38 and Acts 17:30, both from the King James Version).
This was not an official site. It was his personal site where people had to opt-in (and could just as easily, if offended, opt-out). As you peruse the comments, it’s quite clear that there have been some individuals who have long hated everything Folau stands for.
After the post, the governing body, Rugby Australia decided that Folau was guilty of a “high-level” breach of contract relating to conduct. They stated that their values were to be “inclusive”, though clearly inclusivity only extends to everyone who agrees with them.
It seems that because he was a professional player, he lost his right to express himself. Troubling for Rugby Australia, they never bothered to codify exactly what he could and could not say; which I think ought to be the onus. If they want to ensure a human being only says what they approve, they ought to provide the means by which his expression is to be filtered.
Not to mention consistency of punishment seems to be entirely absent; with some players continuing in the game despite assaults, domestic violence, drugs and drink driving.
A related issue for Rugby Australia is the perception that it has somewhat elastic standards when it comes to upholding “Wallabies values”. In recent years, two Wallabies players have been fined and stood down for drug use and possession. One of them is a two-time offender. Neither was sacked. Apparently sniffing cocaine is not a high-level breach of contract. Israel Folau doesn’t drink, doesn’t take drugs and is a model player on and off the field.Patrick Southam, https://mumbrella.com.au/the-rugby-australia-brand-is-damned-after-the-israel-folau-ruling-578664
Folau quoted the Bible. A religious text which hasn’t changed (for Protestants) since the Reformation in 1517, and was largely responsible for the creation of Western civilization. Christians believe the Bible is God’s Word and man does not have the authority to change it, even if it contradicts modern behaviour and norms.
Folau’s intention was not to condemn, but to warn. As his own writings at Player’s Voice suggest:
I believed he was looking for guidance and I answered him honestly and from the heart. I know a lot of people will find that difficult to understand, but I believe the Bible is the truth and sometimes the truth can be difficult to hear.
I think of it this way: you see someone who is about to walk into a hole and have the chance to save him. He might be determined to maintain his course and doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. But if you don’t tell him the truth, as unpopular as it might be, he is going to fall into that hole. What do you do?Read more at https://www.playersvoice.com.au/israel-folau-im-a-sinner-too/#YHbgbLCsYPdQ6o1A.99
I’d like to say that I live in a country with freedom of religion, free from persecution. Including persecution by an angry mob of keyboard warriors, an employer, the media, or the State.
I’d like to expect that everyone has freedom of speech, as long as you don’t threaten or incite violence.
I’d like to suggest that an employer’s rights over an employee have limits. When an employer tries to supersede someone’s individuality or religious freedoms, the contract should be unenforceable.
As Folau takes legal action, I guess we’ll see if I live in such a country.
In my view Folau did nothing wrong. He expressed his religious beliefs with integrity. Some people were offended by those views. And that’s exactly where it should have ended. In a sane world he should have lost a few Instagram followers, not his entire livelihood.
To end with Folau’s own words:
“I have love towards everyone that might be saying negative things … I choose to love them because God loves me.”https://www.smh.com.au/sport/rugby-union/i-m-more-than-happy-to-do-what-he-wants-me-to-do-unrepentant-folau-20190414-p51dyw.html