THE Israel Folau story now has as many twists, turns and sidesteps as a talented fullback in full flight.
Somewhere, buried deep, is a story about religious freedom and “Christian duty”, but the narrative has been highjacked and warped to the point that even staunch supporters of the former Wallaby are left wondering how it ever came to this.
In the latest twist, at the time of going to press, the Australian Christian Lobby had launched a new fundraising page for Mr Folau and donated $100,000 to his legal efforts – drawing an incredible response.
It has raised $1.5 million to date.
The page was launched on the evening of June 24, and quickly climbed past $250,000 as Australians woke the next morning and started donating.
It has surpassed the $750,000 in donations made to his original page set up on the GoFundMe website to help raise $3 million towards his legal battle against Rugby Australia, but then shut down because the website decided Mr Folau’s campaign “violates our terms of service”.
According to the website terms and conditions, users may not attempt to raise money “for the legal defence of … intolerance of any kind relating to race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender or gender identity, or serious disabilities or diseases”.
Rugby Australia ended Mr Folau’s employment contract last month after a tribunal determined his actions – including posting on Instagram warning homosexuals (among others): “Hell Awaits You. Repent! Only Jesus Saves.” – had breached the organisation’s code of conduct.
During a Rugby Australia code of conduct hearing he said he knew the post could offend members of the community.
Mr Folau is taking legal action against RA through the Fair Work Commission, claiming unfair dismissal based on religious discrimination.
He decided to raise public funds knowing that a costly legal battle laid ahead against RA and what he described as “an army of lawyers at their disposal”.
“As Australians we’re born with the right of freedom of religion, and the right to freedom of expression,” Mr Folau said in an online video.
“The Christian faith has always been a part of my life, and I believe as a Christian it is my duty to share God’s word.
“Rugby Australia tore up my employment contract for doing just that – that’s wrong.
“Every Australian should be able to practise their religion without fear of discrimination in the workplace.”
Last year Mr Folau made other remarks about the homosexual community.
He said he could make no guarantees he would refrain from making similar remarks on social media that were based on biblical scripture, regardless of the impact to the game, sponsors and fans.
“My fight with Rugby Australia, to defend my right to practise my religion, has so far cost my wife Maria and me over $100,000 in legal fees,” Mr Folau said. “Since my contract was terminated by Rugby Australia, I’ve been overwhelmed and humbled by support received from family, friends, fans and the public.
“Even people who don’t share my beliefs have defended my right to uphold and express them.
“They made me realise that I’m not just fighting for my future and my family, I’m fighting for what’s right.”