Good news for folks who were confused about footballer Israel Folau‘s comments to the effect that homosexuals will go to hell unless they repent, he has clarified by saying that it’s his beliefs that they will go to hell unless they repent.

Folau has faced a mixture of scrutiny, backlash, and vocal defence after answering a fan’s Instagram question about the final spiritual definition of gay people with “HELL… Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.” The comment would not be hugely surprising to anyone who knows who he is, having been quite vocal about his religious beliefs and his stance on same-sex marriage during the postal survey (spoiler alert: his stance was ‘no’).

Folau has decided to set the record straight with a 2,200-word explanation on PlayersVoice, a platform co-founded by Folau for sportspeople to a “share their thoughts, hopes, dreams and fears” in a “safe space with no gambling promotions and no keyboard warriors“.

In the piece, Folau outlines his religious journey, from his Mormon upbringing, to the temptations that came along with footy success, to the re-engagement with the church that lead him to where is now.

The crux of Folau’s defence is a classic right out of the religious conservative’s playbook – the one where you hate the sin but not the sinner. Folau is quite adamant that he’s not homophobic:

Since my social media posts were publicised, it has been suggested that I am homophobic and bigoted and that I have a problem with gay people.

This could not be further from the truth.

I fronted the cover of the Star Observer Magazine to show my support for the Bingham Cup, which is an international gay rugby competition for both men and women. I believe in inclusion. In my heart, I know I do not have any phobia towards anyone.

In the piece, he stresses that hell isn’t just for homosexuals, it’s for other kinds of sinners as well:

In this case, we are talking about sin as the Bible describes it, not just homosexuality, which I think has been lost on a lot of people.

There are many sins outlined in that passage from 1 Corinthians and I have been guilty of committing some of them myself.

No man or woman is different from another – if you sin, which we all do, and do not repent and seek forgiveness, you will not inherit the kingdom of God.

And, fair enough, those are his religious beliefs, he is more than welcome to hold them. But, at some point, you need to acknowledge the contradiction.

If you believe that God holds that homosexuality is a sin and that God is infallible, you cannot also possibly believe in equality. You may not want to put it that way, but it is unavoidable that you are homophobic. If it is your belief that, through the way they were born, gay people are sinful and corrupt and that the love they feel for other people is wrongful and illegitimate, there is no way you can hold them in your eyes as equal to heterosexual people.

It’s all well and good to talk at length about how you believe they can be saved, but it’s the belief that they are intrinsically moral failures in a way they can’t possibly change that’s the problem.

Folau is more than entitled to his opinions but it is utterly ridiculous to try and suggest that he is just as accepting of gay people as anyone else. No one’s going to force him not to be a Biblical literalist but at the very least he can own it.

You can read his full piece here.

Image: Getty Images / Mark Metcalfe