Fired rugby player Israel Folau has unveiled a GoFundMe campaign, asking supporters to donate up to $3 million to pay for his legal fees in his ongoing battle with Rugby Australia.
At time of writing, Folau has already raised over $140,000.
Folau, whose lucrative contract with Rugby Australia and his team the NSW Waratahs was torn up in May after he posted an Instagram post suggesting gay people and other ‘sinners’ will go to Hell, shared a video on the crowdfunding site saying the legal stoush is a battle for all religious Australians.
“As Australians we are born with a right to freedom of religion, and freedom of expression,” Folau said (that part about freedom of expression? Not strictly true in constitutional terms, but that’s another matter).
“The Christian faith has always been a part of my life, and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God’s word.”
The 30-year-old added “Sadly, after I uploaded the messages from the Bible, my employers, Rugby Australia and Rugby NSW, tore up my employment contract. As a result, I have lost my job, my livelihood, and the ability to play for my country.
“It looks like I will never be allowed to play rugby in this country again.”
Rugby Australia argues that Folau was fired not because of his public expression of religious beliefs, but because the post contravened the organisation’s social media protocols. Specifically, an independent panel found Folau’s post was a “high-level” breach of Rugby Australia’s professional players’ code of conduct.
After failing to appeal the decision with a Rugby Australia tribunal, Folau is moving to escalate his challenge by taking his case to the FairWork Commission and has reportedly secured the services of high-profile barristers.
The case seems poised to become a landmark battle between an employer and their employees’ right to say that a minority group will suffer for eternity unless they admit wrongdoing and apologise to the Christian God. Watch this space.