Israel Folau Sues Rugby Australia for $10 Million Over Firing for Homophobic Remarks

Former Rugby Australia player Israel Folau has officially filed a lawsuit against the organization that fired him for homophobic remarks, seeking A$10m ($6.8m US).

BBC reports: “He argues his contract was unlawfully ended due to his Christian beliefs. Australian rugby officials maintain that Folau breached a players’ code of conduct. Mediation attempts in Australia’s main workplace relations tribunal broke down in June. Formerly one of Australia’s highest-paid athletes, Folau has said that he is seeking A$10m (£5.6m; $6.8m) in compensation and a return to the national side. He has filed an application in the Federal Circuit Court.”

Related: Australia has kicked Israel Folau out of professional rugby for his repeated anti-gay comments

In April, Rugby Australia said it was terminating Folau’s contract after the player posted a meme to Instagram that said Hell awaits all homosexuals. Folau challenged the firing and the “code of conduct” panel was assembled.

Said Rugby Australia at the time: “Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Rugby Union have made repeated attempts to contact Israel both directly and via his representatives since 6.30pm on Wednesday, and at this point he has failed to communicate directly with either organisation. Whilst Israel is entitled to his religious beliefs, the way in which he has expressed these beliefs is inconsistent with the values of the sport. We want to make it clear that he does not speak for the game with his recent social media posts.”

Said Folau in his GoFundMe message: “I believe that sharing the Bible is an act of love and compassion. I know some people do not like or believe in the Bible. Indeed, what makes our country so wonderful is that we have such a diverse community made up of so many different cultures and values. But my faith defines me as a person. I do not believe that it is fair or right that I be punished for my religious beliefs.  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.”

You may recall that Folau was nearly expelled from the sport in 2018 after a series of similar homophobic actions.

Folau, a devout Christian raised as a Mormon who converted to the Assemblies of God fellowship with his family in 2011, made headlines in September 2017 during Australia’s debate over same-sex marriage, when he tweeted, “I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. but personally, I will not support gay marriage.”

One year ago in April 2018, Folau replied to a follower in an Instagram post who asked, “what was gods plan for gay people?”

Israel Folau

In the comments section of the post, Folau, who plays for New South Wales Waratahs, replied, “HELL.. Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.”

Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Waratahs, for which Folau plays, said they would seek an explanation from Folau and denounced the player.

Rugby Australia declined to punish Folau, though its inclusion policy states: “Rugby has and must continue to be a sport where players, officials, volunteers, supporters and administrators have the right and freedom to participate regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or religion and without fear of exclusion. There is no place for homophobia or any form of discrimination in our game and our actions and words both on and off the field must reflect this.”

Then, one month after coming under scrutiny, Folau tweeted an anti-gay video.

The video featured a sermon by evangelical preacher David Wilkerson and footage of a Pride march where Christian street preachers were being protested, and a clip of the White House lit in rainbow colors against narration that said, “Now is the time to get right with God because this generation has lost the fear of God. There’s no fear of God left in the land.”

Folau also said he’d rather walk away from rugby than defy the Bible.

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