This is bigger than Folau

That image came from 2GB.

Whether Israel Folau should have been sacked by Rugby Union Australia will be resolved as a matter of contract law in the courts. However, elements within society are using the case to promote their agenda in terms of free speech and/or religious rights.

Until recently, I thought he should have been smacked on the wrist, given a fine or something and everyone should have gone back to playing football. That’s more or less what happened to Folau’s wife, Maria, who plays netball. Liz Ellis was upset, but everyone seems to have moved on.

Seems, though, RU did just that in April 2018, but in a matter of months Folau was back at it again. I understand because God told him to.

Fair enough, if you believe in an all-powerful god who talks to you, but then words can have consequences, sometimes harmful, and ‘God made me do it’ is maybe not an adequate defence in the courts, and of no comfort to the victims.

Be that as it may, RU has piled in and have made their situation very clear. They had no option, they say, or they would have had no sponsors, including government, and players could have sued them. For RU Australia it was quite straight forward. RU chairman Cameron Clyne:

    “We are looking at it from the good of the game as a whole. No one is suggesting this is helpful but I would go back to Israel Folau’s comments from last year when he said if it was hurting the game he’d walk away for the good of the game.

    “Since this issue has emerged I’ve asked those who’ve said we should have taken a different response to suggest what that alternative was and so far no one has been able to do that.

    “But to those who are saying you should bankrupt the game and allow religious freedom, well we do allow religious freedom but what we don’t allow is disparagement and that’s clear under [Folau’s] contract.”


    “… was not sacked for his religion, he was sacked for a breach of his contract.”


    “We’ve never given up on mediation, we’ve made many attempts, but we’ve also got to remember that this is bigger than Israel Folau, we have a duty to every other professional and community player in the game. We can’t accept a scenario where contracts become arbitrary.”

    To say that Folau was sacked at the behest of sponsors, was offensive and wrong, he said.

Here’s a statement from NSW RU.

It does seem clear that if the RU had not acted, some players would have refused to play with Folau.

Tim Soutphommasane in Let me speak freely: our freedom of speech ‘crisis’ is culture warriors’ codswallop says:

    Everyone stop, and repeat after me: There is no crisis of free speech. Freedom of religion has not been suppressed. Political correctness has not gone mad.

He says that freedom can ever be absolute, including freedom of religion.

It seems obvious to me that speech is an act which can do harm, and responsibility for harm remains, irrespective of motivation.

Soutphommasane says:

    it simply isn’t true that Folau’s religious freedoms have been fundamentally encroached. Folau can still say what he likes about homosexuals and sinners. It’s just that saying that may come with consequences. That’s not free speech being unjustly restrained. That’s Folau choosing his religious conviction over his contractual obligations. A choice he is free to make. It’s hard to see how Folau is a victim.

David Marr says With Israel Folau the church demands a kind of free speech that keeps gays in the firing line. He says the churches want to turn a right into a privilege, and use that privilege to discriminate against people they don’t approve of.

Frank Brennan has now weighed in with a conversation with Michelle Grattan on Israel Folau and religious freedom:

    Frank Brennan, Jesuit priest and member of the expert panel on Religious Freedom set up by Malcolm Turnbull, says the Israel Folau matter is a “simple freedom of contract case regardless of Mr. Folau’s religious views”.

    “I think the question is, did he voluntarily, and for a very large sum of money, agree with his employer to follow a work code which included an undertaking not to make statements on social media about various things which may or may not have a religious component?”

He sees the way forward as a Religious Discrimination Act, recommended by the review, in line with other existing anti-discrimination laws on race and gender.

    As for issues to do with religious schools, “Penny Wong’s bill was correct,” he said – referring to the Senator’s Amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act late last year which sought to remove the capacity of religious schools to directly discriminate against students on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

    The only addition needed to this, he said, would be a clear commitment that “religious schools are free to teach their doctrine”.

It’s complicated, because we don’t have a legislated or constitutional human rights bill as such, and the constitution puts protection of religion in a section dealing with the States, which have the usual mess of legislated provisions, some more adequate than others. Brennan explains at some length.

Brennan thinks a law on religious discrimination would show that we take religion seriously. However, the matter of employment raises difficulties.

He thinks:

    what is important as an ideal is the idea that a very evangelical or very religious school be able to employ teachers who get with the message, get with the ethos of the institution.

And that to legislate about this would be heavy-handed.

I think, in the real world, a homophobic school principal will make life hell for a gay employee, whatever the law.

Folau’s GoFundMe page was taken down for breaching the platform’s terms of service, only to be replaced by The Australian Christian Lobby, where supporters have tipped in a couple of million.

Now Folau has been brutally mocked in a mural appearing in Sydney’s inner west:

Here’s a detail:

This ABC article says Folau’s property empire has an estimated worth of about $7m and he recently sold a $500,000 Lamborghini.

The artist, Scott Marsh, cites a Bible verse from Matthew 19:4.

    “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven,” Marsh wrote on Instagram.

If it opens for you, here’s Folau’s post re-posted on Facebook.

Here’s the image Folau posted on Instagram:

And this is what Folau posted next to it:

According to some person on FB, the KJV does not use term “homosesexuals”. It does use the term `whoremongers’. Apparently, the well regarded NIV translation states:

    “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

The term `whoremongers’ appears 10 times, and is taken to mean anyone who has sex outside marriage.

Probably this one from 1 Timothy 1:10 may be relevant:

    For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;

Then you can also have a discussion about the word “sodomy”, which has generally been frowned on, although the word in not in the King James Version of the Bible, as well as the NKJV, NASB, and the NIV. The word does not appear in English until the 1300’s AD.

Folau’s quote does not support his inclusion of homosexuals in the graphic. However, who knows what version his sect uses!

For those who prioritise reason over faith, Folau’s list includes only one category where people are deemed at fault where they don’t actually have a choice. By and large, gender is not a lifestyle choice. People are being condemned for how God made them, if you believe in God.

My younger son tells me that Instagram is a public medium. Anyone can see what you post there.

My conclusion is that Folau ethically should not do what he did, work contract or no work contract.

There’s more at the 7.30 Report

Also FWIW Gillian Triggs supports Israel Folau’s right to religious expression.

She accepts that the matter will be decided by contract law, but believes that freedom of expression is a fundamental constitutional right which should not be constrained by employers. She did say along the way that speech may harm, but she considers it “foolish” and “disproportionate” to constrain the expression of religious belief of this kind. However, the court may find homosexuality an “attribute” needing protection.

While she would prefer a broad charter of human rights, Triggs is open to the possibility of laws that protect “attributes” as well as religious freedoms.

Thankyou, Ms Triggs! Good to know that homosexuality is a mere attribute!

19 thoughts on “This is bigger than Folau”

  1. This started as a Weekly Salon item last week that got too big.

    Then it just kept getting bigger and bigger, probably took me another 7-8 hours!

    I work on the principle that you should be able to get the gist without following the links. In this case there are 15.

    So if you want more, it’s there.

    Not sure it was worth the effort, but there are now 132 unfinished posts in the bowels of CP!

  2. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven,”

    I’ve always seen that statement as “ you can’t take it with you “ rather than the Sky Spaghetti Monster condemning fiscally successful folk.

    Question, would you pursue unfair dismissal if you were sacked for the same retweet ?

    Sure as eggs I’d be dragged before the anti discrimination board if I sacked someone for that.
    Triggs and Southpossumarse can testify to that.

  3. She accepts that the matter will be decided by contract law, but believes that freedom of expression is a fundamental constitutional right which should not be constrained by employers.

    Triggs is full of it.
    Show me that in our Constitution.
    Calling bullshit !

  4. I concur with your interpretation, Rev Jumpy.
    Why did the man die rich?

    Because he didn’t share while he was alive. Didn’t donate to causes he favoured…. or (heavens to Betsy!!) refused to pay his taxes like a good boy should.

    That’s unChristian isn’t it, Archdeacon Jumpy?

    Peace be with you.

    On the Folau matter, I support his amateur preaching. The Fornicators Foundation is miffed, but they can go f*rnicate with each other.

  5. Yes Brian, there is a vague implied freedom of speech in Australia. In reality we have no explicit Constitutional freedom of speech, like China or Venezuela its open to appointed judiciary.
    To my knowledge only America has it enshrined in Constitution, lucky free bastards..

    Mr A
    Perhaps consider the huge amount of philanthropic good done monetarily fortunate successful folk actually directed where they see need.
    Charitable contributions are still tax deductible are they not ?

  6. The big questions relate to work contracts including:
    1. What can and can’t be included in work contracts?
    2. When, where and under what conditions do the various parts of the contract apply?
    3. Can people be refused employment or promotion because of religious beliefs.
    4. Can someone sue a potential sponsor for using their financial power to insist an employee like Folau does, or doesn’t do something or insists that the employee should be sacked?
    There are a number of specific issues that apply to the Folau case:
    1. What should people like Folau do if they believe that people will go to hell if they do things or fail to do things? (My take is that Folau has a moral obligation to act even though I don’t believe in hell or the always wrongness of some of the things listed.)
    2. Should Folau shut up about gays? (Yes. What he is condemning them for is being homosexual as distinct from homosexual acts. In theory people can control what they do as distinct to controlling what they are.) What he is doing for this sin is vilification and bullying which some people might believe should be added to the sin list.
    3. Should he shut up on or provide a more nuanced version of some of the other issues? (Would be nice. He definitely should stop harassing individuals who don’t wish to be harassed.)
    It is all a bit complex.

  7. John D I don’t think Folau is targeting anyone in particular, just putting his beliefs out there. But I agree it is all a bit complex.

    Probably no-one would get hurt if others didn’t make a fuss and harass him.

    There is a body of opinion that employers are too controlling about what employees do in their private lives.

  8. Mr J

    I have no doubt that many people, wealthy and poor, donate to charity using cash. Many also donate time and their physical presence.

    But Jesus, being the radical and uncompromising teacher that the Gospels tell us he was, took the view that a rich man could not enter Heaven.


    Should the rich man divest himself of his wealth (and the privileges it gives him)? Why would a teacher of ethics and a preacher of God’s word say that?

    If a rich man can’t enter Heaven (upon his death), and many of us can’t predict the hour of our demise, it seems the teaching may boil down to: thou shalt not amass riches.

    If that is plausible, Jesus emerges as a harsh judge of human wealth. Please point out the flaw(s) in my interpretation.

  9. Brian and John

    I find it perplexing that an employer should demand that an employee should refrain from stating his (religious) beliefs.

    Mr Folau says that sinners have a path to redemption through Jesus. Mr Folau is not condemning anyone to Hell; he doesn’t have that power, which in his world is vested in God.

    Is a contract purporting to restrict Mr Folau’s expression of his religious beliefs a valid contract? How can quoting the New Testament be an offence warranting dismissal?

    And what of quoting the Quran, or the teachings of Buddha, or quoting Confucius, Marcus Aurelius, the Book of Mormon, Thomas Aquinas, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, the Pope, a rabbi, or proclaiming one’s faith as PM Morrison has done?

    I don’t think it’s very complex.
    I will quote Orwell and Christopher Hitchens and
    Winston Churchill and even Georgi Dimitrov and expect to be able to do so in Australia without fear. Ditto quoting Jesus or any of the other persons.

    I heard it said recently, that Paul’s Epistles were every one of them directed to Christians. If you are not a Christian they don’t apply to you, hence you have no cause to be upset.

    By the way, for the ANZ Bank to think it fair to contemplate punishing Maria Folau for supporting her husband’s appeal, strikes me as cruel, reprehensible and misguided.

    If it’s possible, may we please remove the grip of large corporations from the hearts of sporting codes???

    We believe in being inclusive but NB certain sects are not included in our inclusivity.

    “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” – George Orwell, Animal Farm
    (Dear Mr Orwell,
    We do not publish childrens’ books…..)

  10. Like most of his type, Mr Folau cherry picks which parts of the bible are the inerrant word of God.
    He has manifestly failed to follow the instructions in Leviticus 19: 27-28.

  11. For the benefit of all,

    Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.

    Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

    Leviticus 19: 27-28

    King James Version
    Printed at the University Press
    for Angus & Robertson, Ltd
    Sydney and Melbourne

    Appointed to be read in Churches

  12. The irony is that, as the result of the pressure from sponsors and the sacking by Rugby Aus, what Folau said on his blog has been read by an enormous number of people who would never have read it under other circumstances. In addition, the attitude of some people to Qantas and Rugby Aus has been diminished.
    While the Folau case has strengthened the case for laws against religious discrimination of the sort Folau has suffered from it weakens the case for allowing religious schools etc. to discriminate against potential employees and students etc on the basis of religion or lack of it. Morrison needs to be very careful er what he does.
    One wonders too whether the Folau case will result in a limiting of what employment contracts can demand.

  13. John, Folau has hardly suffered from religious discrimination. He’s $2.2 million richer because of the publicity.
    And in modern English my Leviticus quote is

    27 Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip the edges of your beard.
    28 Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourself. I am the Lord.

    He’s a hypocrite.

  14. Interesting question: Could Folau sue Qantas (and other sponsors if applicable) for pressuring Rugby Australia to sack him?

  15. RU claim that there has been no pressure from Qantas, or any sponsor.

    Perhaps no overt pressure, but RU did say that unless they acted they would be sponsorless.

  16. Perhaps QANTAS was upset on behalf of the thieves, drunks and adulterers.

    Alan Joyce should stick to running airlines rather than sporting codes.

Comments are closed.