Australia’s best rugby player Israel Folau has had his $4-million player contract terminated by the game’s peak governing body. This follows Folau being found guilty of a high-level breach of the players’ code of conduct by a three-person Rugby Australia panel because of his sinners Instagram post on April 10.
Although he had listed many sinners in that post it caused outrage online because it included homosexuals. This was due to the fact that in April 2018 he replied to a question on Instagram about God’s plan for gay people to which he replied: hell, unless they repent. He was reprimanded by Rugby Australia for this at the time.
The announcement was made at 3pm in Sydney this afternoon by Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle who stressed that his termination was not due to his religious belief, but the offending post was contrary to the game’s values and a breach of an employment contract. This contract termination was ironically made on The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
Folau maintained at all stages he would not compromise his faith, but the saga still took a personal toll on him as footage emerged of him breaking down during an Easter Sunday sermon at his local church.
Other rugby players of Pacific Islander descent who also share Folau’s devout Christian beliefs warned Rugby Australia of a Polynesian walkout if the game discriminated against Christians. Islander players from the Melbourne Rebels and Queensland Reds gathered for a post-match prayer at their game on Saturday.
The saga has again raised concern about freedom of speech and freedom of religion in modern times. Prime Minister Scott Morrison who previously described Folau as being a man of ‘strong character’ and has proposed a Religious Discrimination Act refused to defend him, this time calling his comments ‘grossly insensitive’.
Bill Shorten this week even asked Scott Morrison if he personally shared Israel Folau’s belief that homosexuals would go to hell, implying that being of that belief in 2018 is hate speech.
Folau has given all indications he will challenge in court the termination of his contract, so this saga and the implications for free speech and religion will play out further.