How the Israel Folau case is dividing Australia – and the Church

Jul 13, 2019 by

by Natasha Marsh, Catholic Herald:

Not a day passes in Australia without hearing the latest in the saga of Israel Folau, the sporting superstar sacked by Rugby Australia (RA) on April 11 after he posted a biblical warning to “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers” and others on the social media site Instagram.

In a drama that has stretched from his first transgression in 2017, when he publicly opposed same-sex marriage, right through to this year’s federal election, Australia has watched as “Izzy” has been fired and banned from rugby for life; he is now suing RA for A$10 million (£5.8 million, or $7 million) for unjust termination.

In a similar way to Cardinal George Pell, Folau has been held up daily for public disapproval with articles accusing him of being “homophobic”, “dangerous” and “greedy”. He’s even been accused of diverting money from sick children by asking supporters to fund his case.

His wife, Maria, a professional netballer, was put in the firing line as two of her sponsors, ANZ bank and HCF Health Insurance, contacted her employers to declare their disapproval of both her and her husband. On June 24, the international crowdfunding site GoFundMe suddenly shut down Folau’s page requesting money to help in his legal battle, saying it violated its terms of service.

Nicola Britton, the Australian regional manager of GoFundMe, said: “As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity”, but that “we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion”.

Despite the daily criticisms, there has been a stubborn resistance on the part of the Australian public to accept Folau as the villain. Rather, support is growing for the bulky, softly spoken, Polynesian Pentecostal who holds the record for most tries in Australian rugby history.

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