Folau funds could have served a greater good

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By close of business on Thursday, the Australian Christian Lobby had raised over $2 million for Israel Folau's legal fighting fund. Many people are expressing views about whether Folau's published words ought to have affected his employment. It's an important discussion to have.

Israel Folau departs his conciliation meeting with Rugby Australia at the Fair Work Commission in Sydney on 28 June 2019 in Sydney. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)However, my mind is distracted by another question: about the priorities of the many practising Christians supporting the fundraiser, and whether they have thought about the other good works this money could go to. As a former community lawyer, I can think of many ways $2 million might be spent to help those facing a battle with the law.

There are around 50 Community Legal Centres (CLCs), including Aboriginal Legal Services, in Victoria, and over 180 nationally. Many receive only enough core funding for two or three full-time staff. With that, these tiny organisations help thousands of people in legal crisis (often precipitated by a financial, relationship or health crisis — or all of those) every year.

CLCs provide support to keep people in safe homes, help them navigate the mental health system, offer financial counselling, support them in jobs, protect them from abuse, and stop scammers exploiting the vulnerable. Community lawyers can be found in hospitals, drop-in centres, boarding houses and local parks, speaking to people who need help. I know, because I have done all these things. It was the hardest and most rewarding work I have done.

They do all this by quietly delivering far more than their funding allows — truly making loaves and fishes for the masses. The value of the pro bono work that they offer is worth many millions of dollars per year. CLCs often partner with universities to train students, who help clients with simple matters. They also augment their core funding with grant money, used to pilot new programs with an early intervention approach, diverting people away from crisis, and saving the justice and welfare systems countless hours and dollars.

Centres also provide ears on the ground for government. Often a CLC will be the first to learn about issues affecting disadvantaged groups which require regulatory responses. The legal assistance sector has driven reform in areas like family violence, mental health and disability advocacy, prison conditions and police accountability, providing a wider benefit beyond their clients and into the future.

The ability to cross over between legal practice, policy and advocacy functions is one of their unique features, stemming from their social justice origins and providing benefits for the whole community.

 

"Folau might do well to step out on the streets with a community lawyer, remember his gospels, and see how much good this money could do."

 

A 2006 report from the University of Technology Sydney found that 'the quantitative value of the CLC services for the clients involved was in the order of one hundred times far greater than the amount that CLC services are funded per client'. This figure excluded the broader impact of the educational and law reform work, but if this were included 'the total economic value of CLCs is shown to be very high indeed'. In other words, if you donated $1 million to community legal centres, you would see $100 million in benefits to the community.

If I were still working in CLCs, and someone offered me $1 million, I could come up with ideas very quickly for how to spend it. It could fund a full-time lawyer and social worker helping women in prison for five years. It could fund a full-time community support worker at an Aboriginal Legal Service for at least ten years. Or a statewide program for teens in regional residential care, with three staff and an army of volunteers, for four years. Or legal advice and disability advocacy for NDIS clients for five years. The list goes on.

So I ask those of faith: when you give money, perhaps first imagine the good you can do. I am a lapsed Christian, but I learned the fundamentals of the faith from my grandparents and teachers, and I took them to heart: love one another as you are loved, and remember that all people are equal and valuable, made 'in the image of God.' That includes the poor, the substance-dependent, and those who are diverse in race, culture, gender and sexuality. Everyone. 

Armed with those values, I went out into the world, law degree in hand, and lived by them as a community lawyer.

When I read about $2 million being raised so a a multimillionaire rugby star can defend his right to post something on social media, I am reminded of another lesson I learned as a child: that it is harder for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Folau might do well to step out on the streets with a community lawyer, remember his gospels, and see how much good this money could do. And perhaps he can go fund himself on this one.

 

 

Chelsea CandyChelsea Candy is a sessional lecturer at the RMIT School of Business and Law, and worked and volunteered in community legal centres as a lawyer from 2008 to 2017.

Main image: Israel Folau departs his conciliation meeting with Rugby Australia at the Fair Work Commission in Sydney on 28 June 2019 in Sydney. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Chelsea Candy, Israel Folau

 

 

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Community Legal Centres punch well above their weight in helping the community. Lawyers, and others, who work in this sector contribute so much to social cohesion and fairness in our society particularly given that it is a profession where wealth can easily be accumulated. And there is not enough funding to go around. Christians are generous and sometimes they could be more so. Folau is a wealthy man. I can not say how he distributes his wealth. However I do agree that Go Fund Me was not a suitable vehicle for his legal battles. I am also loath to give him advice about what he should be doing. Every single one of us can do better and perhaps our best example is to be mindful of those less fortunate and give, if not money, then of ourselves.
Pam | 02 July 2019


Good article Chelsea and I agree with most of what you say. However, I would like to make a couple of points. a) Who is to say that the people who funded Israel Folau do not also fund, with both effort and money, a vast range of worthy charities. b) Is it not also possible that these people feel threatened. Israel Folau did not do anything, he only made a comment based, rightly or wrongly, on his religious belief. So, what do their beliefs mean ? If Israel Folau can be severely punished for what he said, not what he did, than it sets a very dangerous precedent. In our free democratic society what does our freedom to live and express our belief mean? Maybe some people are willing to donate a little to Israel Folau's case to find out.
Brian Leeming | 02 July 2019


I can’t think of a more cogent example of what you write about, Chelsea, than the following words of Joe Hildebrand: "This debate has little to do with me personally but it touched me personally nonetheless. Not because I was particularly offended or outraged but because at exactly the same time as I was struggling to raise money for the homeless via a nominally Christian charity — the eternally selfless Society of St Vincent de Paul — Israel Folau was using his Christianity to raise money for contract lawyers. By the time you read this I will probably still have failed to get to my target of $10,000 while Folau will probably have topped $2 million. This is more than the entire amount raised in Sydney for the Vinnies CEO Sleepout — its number one fundraising drive for literally the poorest and most deprived people in the country. That fact is beyond galling, it is sickening. And it tells us everything about what gets money and attention these days. But the self-righteous crusaders who are seeking to crucify Folau are no less culpable in this absurdity." https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/joe-hildebrand-the-one-thing-missing-in-the-israel-folau-debate/news-story/6de06e481890f410d1153a25e42b7fbc https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/joe-hildebrand-the-one-thing-missing-in-the-israel-folau-debate/news-story/6de06e481890f410d1153a25e42b7fbc
PeterD | 02 July 2019


If one individual donated two million dollars to the Folau appeal, it would be quite reasonable to ask him or her whether such a large donation was warranted giving the many other worthy causes crying out for support. But what the article does is to ask each of, let’s say, 10,000 individuals donating two hundred dollars each whether s/he should maybe have given fifty to Folau and the rest to other causes, or maybe nothing at all to Folau and the whole amount to other causes. The larger the number of donors, the smaller will be the individual donation needed to make up two million dollars and the more carping will this article appear to be. Would this article make sense if 400,000 people donated five bucks each? Is it going to tell someone that five to Folau is too much when there are all of these CLCs around? The global amount is irrelevant. What is relevant is how the median donor should have divvied up his contribution between various causes. Given that the median donor probably didn’t give much at all to Folau, why should he have had to divvy up his widow’s mites, so to speak?
roy chen yee | 02 July 2019


It's a pity that the ACL didn't think fit raise $2 million toward the welfare of refugees in Australia's off-shore gulags. Perhaps Folau could have contributed something himself from his own considerable resources.
Ginnger Meggs | 02 July 2019


I can't help thinking both sides have been rather silly here. Why did the NRL have to take any notice of the nonsense coming out of Folau at all? It seems to me quite reasonable for the public to be aware that while Folau is a superb performer on the field, off the field he is just another fundamentalist galoot. Though maybe this is too simple: if Folau wins this he comes off very well indeed.
Bill Venables | 03 July 2019


All very correct Ms. Chelsea Candy. Folau has earned millions and can afford to cover his legal costs. Religious free is an important issue but Folau is perusing self-gain that if successful will net him further millions. I am willing to bet little of which will be donated back to community needs. The Australian Christian Lobby has failed to understand the wider implication of Falau intentions.
Edward M | 03 July 2019


Anyone who says that the money raised for Israel Folau's legal appeal could and should have been spent on more deserving issues has no business saying that. The insinuation being that those who gave freely could have directed that money to more deserving causes BUT you make the assumption that that particular money is all that the donor gives to charity. That's an insult. In my house we are generous towards others who need financial help. We chose to give to the Folau appeal because it's not limited to him personally. We could see the broader issue here and that it's a challenge to every Christian's freedom to quote scriptures without fear of losing their job or being financially harmed in some way. If the message that comes from scripture hurts some people's feelings then they must ask themselves why. Don't shoot the messenger. If anyone has a problem with God's word, take it up with him but leave the messengers out of the equation. It's mind boggling to me that so many people do not see the real issues here. I find it hypocritical that Christians are being hamstrung by what they can say yet others in society can say and do whatever is offensive to Christians, yet they do so with impunity. This is a fight against the obvious "hunting season" on Christians from certain sections in society. You or others have no right whatsoever to tell people where to direct their charitable dollars to. If you want to, then you do it but don't insult people who donated to this appeal by insinuating that we are not generous elsewhere. It's not limited to giving to the Folau appeal or nowhere else. Do you think we are idiots?
Linda Behan | 03 July 2019


Its all about EGO with Folau. His behaviour is such a contradiction of Christianity when if he truly believed in what he preaches, then he would fund the court challenge. The issue seems to be riding on the back of the Gay Marriage Bill that was initiated by Turnbull for which there still is much silent community vexation and Folau is using his celebrity status to move mountains for the removal of such rights in society. On the one hand he claims rights for Christianity but on the other, he espouses hell will be the outcome for others. Folau would be more effective if he were to quit professional sport, get himself an education in philosophy and become an evangelist.
Nathan Narkent | 03 July 2019


I feel so sad that a great opportunity was missed by Israel Folau. Jesus did not condemn people with statements like "...…. will go to hell!" In fact does Jesus anywhere in the New Testament refer to hell in that condemnatory way. To say publicly that certain individuals "will go to hell" is not a statement of Folau's faith. Has he offered to help any of those sinners he listed? Would Jesus have accepted a public gift of millions of shekels to defend his case against Pontius Pilate? Christ's message is one of inclusion not exclusion. He had to teach Peter that question of not discriminating against certain people or cutting off their ears in righteous anger. Folau could have become a healing voice in our community as he has been a sporting model in our sporting community.
Christopher Mayor | 03 July 2019


Chelsea, I support your comments fully. Israel Folau is entitled to his literal misinterpretation of Scripture, however he is not entitled to damage the message of Jesus which is to love one another as He loves you. What really annoys me is that he took it upon himself to judge others . That is blatant hypocrisy. He is not God and can not know the mind of God. On the raising of two million dollars to challenge his dismissal from the ARU, I agree with Chelsea that the money would be better spent helping the down and outs of our society. Folau is a very wealthy individual, so he does not need this money anyway to fight what is a stupid action in the Courts. As a former Public Servant, now retired, I was and still am prohibited from disclosing information that I learnt in my employment. Folau was restricted in what he could 'post' in his role as a public figure and would have signed a document in that regard. Sadly the media has had a circus with this unfortunate outburst which in the end further damages the public's perception of what Christianity teaches.
Gavin OBrien | 03 July 2019


I donated to Israel because the issue of not facing loss of job or other consequence for expressing religious opinion is worth defending. Otherwise this forum might cease to exist. I didn’t agree with everything Israel posted, failing to distinguish between sin and the sinner, but the issue has become one of the right of christians to be heard in public discourse. (Much unfavourable reaction to Israel was very crudely expressed). And as some other writers have pointed out, I donate to a number of charities, especially those that support the poor, homeless, and refugees - not just this special issue.
David | 03 July 2019


"If anyone has a problem with God's word, take it up with him" writes one of the correspondents. What can you say to such a statement? If only you could take it up with God. I am left wondering where I would go to meet God. Perhaps I am ignorant but I have yet to find any address for a face to face meeting with God? I am aware there are a number of books about him and perhaps I could consult these, whether in India, China, the Middle East or the USA. However, I have found them to be a little contradictory and they seem to hold different descriptions of this God and his view of things. It seems this Folau has met God and good for him but as for me perhaps I am just an idiot.
Tom Kingston | 03 July 2019


Very best wishes to Community Legal Centres for their work. Fortunately we are not a totalitarian state and can still choose where we wish to donate or how we spend our own money. Many donating to Israel Folau have stated that they are not Christian, but are happy to contribute to a fight for Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion. That anyone is sacked for their private religious belief, nothing to do with their work, is appalling. The irony is that such a huge amount of money is needed to cover legal fees for this matter. It’s easy to quote scripture and for each quote, one can find another, e.g. Matthew 7: 1-5. The basis of Democracy is Freedom of Speech. This includes encouraging robust debate and trusting people to draw their own conclusions.
Jane | 03 July 2019


Chelsea Candy you have made some excellent points. Far better to raise funds to help people with real-life problems than to support a fellow-Christian who breached his contract with a football club. Priorities.
Margaret | 03 July 2019


Many of the Christians who supported Israel Folau give tens of millions of dollars each year supporting world of compassion. I suspect that contributions to Israel Folau’s cause would have been in addition to the regular and sustained giving that I know goes on. There are infinitely wealthier people in Australia than Mr Folau and one wonders what would come to light if their giving was open to scrutiny.
Kelvin Hampstead | 03 July 2019


Heartily agree Chelsea. The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) who raised heaps for Folau does not represent the 50% of Christians who voted in favour of marriage equality. Given the rising influence of conservative Christians on politics, I'd like to know what progressive Christians can do to balance their oft publicised voice. The Christian LGBTI community have shared wonderful gifts with the church over the centuries. We should be grateful God created them and embraced them in the Church. Christ said nothing against LGBTI people. He did argue clearly against divorce. I wonder how many of Folau's donors are divorced?
Anne Shannon | 03 July 2019


Everyone seems to be missing the point here. Religious freedoms have been under serious attack globally and significantly here in Australia. The anti-religion and, in particular, the anti-Christian lobby has gained significant and escalating traction of recent times. This matter is not about a footballers rhetoric, but about the right of a person to manifest his or her religious beliefs. It is a fundamental issue affecting all religions and trancends mere verbal expression. History is riddled with what it is like to be unable to manifest your religion and "those who do not learn (from) history are doomed to repeat it". The Prime Minister has flagged his intention to put a Bill to Parliament later this year to guarantee religios freedom, but what it looks like and his chance of success are moot. Every Christian, Judaist, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, calathumpian, anything, should be squarly behind this fight.
Tony Martin | 03 July 2019


I remain bemused by the ACL's readiness to raise money to advocate for Izzy Folau's right to express opinions contrary to his employer's sincerely held beliefs when, to my knowledge, they were nowhere to be seen when + Bill Morris was fired for expressing similarly contrary opinions. Like wise with some of the contributors to this discussion. Is it religious freedom or the rights of orthodoxy that are at stake here?
Ginger Meggs | 03 July 2019


Based on its treatment of Israel Folau, Rugby Australia would give Our Lord the swift boot, along with His apostles. The New Testament is chock full of the threat of hell and the acts which, unrepented, incur eternal damnation. Our Lord and His followers would thus fall far short of the high standards Rugby Australia has set in the areas of inclusion. tolerance and not giving offence. Time to beat our croziers into football posts?
HH | 03 July 2019


As a retired community lawyer, I would have helped a person who lost their job because they quoted the Bible. Some of our clients had assets but no income. When you are employed you make financial commitments which suddenly you can longer honour. The Australian Christian Lobby has started a fund for all Christians who are discriminated against because of their religion. So that is a good thing. Many people cannot afford to pursue unfair dismissal so cannot get justice. Izzy's case is a test case for us all.
Katrina Haller | 03 July 2019


There are obviously many people in Australia who feel that Israel Folau's story resonates with them. What it is acceptable to say publicly, has radically changed over the past few years. Most believing Christians wouldn't have posted something as fundamentalist as Israel did, but some of us have posted far less controversial comments and felt the wrath of the thought and culture police. Simply saying that you hold a traditional view of marriage is enough to be hit with a barrage of hateful and sometimes threatening comments. (and potentially jeopardize your employment) Try it for an experiment if you don't believe me. So who are these people who are 'standing with Folau'? I would propose that anybody who has been called a 'homophobe' identifies a little bit (and perhaps a lot) with Israel Folau's battle. ... and given that 4.9 million Australian voters voted 'no' that's a lot of Aussies. The money raised can probably be understood as a sign of people's discontent and worry. In answer to your 'what about...' question, I suspect that the 20,000 who donated are probably the 20% of the population who give 80% of the money for all charitable works. Lastly, I think anyone who thinks Israel Folau is doing this as some kind of ego-trip has obviously never lived through a battle of this scale. He will not be having a fun time with any of this. He's not doing this for kicks. You'd have to be a masochist to take on a battle of this scale. I don't agree with his fundamentalist stream of Christianity, but I see in him a young man of extraordinary integrity - rare in this generation. I hope that through this process he, and we are made better people. Pray for him. Oh, and pray for us.
Cate | 03 July 2019


Presumably Israel Folau has received advice from a legal source that his legal representation may cost $2m. To bring some perspective to this pantomime, with nearly 75% of adult kidney transplants being performed in public teaching hospitals under Medicare by top flight surgeons with equivalent professional status to a top flight legal representative (barrister, SC), the very experienced surgeon will be paid $400 for two hours work and the not so experienced up to $1000.00 for five hours work. (Surgeons are paid an hourly sessional fee up to $200.00 per hour under Medicare. In the rare private patient the surgeon is paid the schedule fee of $1391.15 in over 90% of cases). The surgical profession would have to perform some 4000 life saving kidney transplant operations to earn $2m. If the legal fees for Folau are really likely to run to millions, the value that our society and, dare I say, the law apparently places on money over and above life itself is stunning (or any other number of derogatory adjectives of individual choosing). Not everyone adheres to the pro bono concept in offering a monopoly at reduced or no fee as espoused by Chelsea in her work for those who can't afford the law. "It's time", as someone once said - for Lawicare.
john frawley | 03 July 2019


I have spoken to dozens of people who donated to the ACL trust fund for Folau's legal costs, and one of them is not a Christian and some did not agree with his theology. But what motivated each of these people to give was that they believe that people should have the right to express their religious beliefs. Freedom is very precious, and highly valued. Incidentally, ACL, through it Human Rights Law Alliance has helped over 60 people who have been discriminated against or hauled before tribunals of various sorts for living out the Christian life or for expressing a traditional Christian view of family or marriage. These people are not famous like Folau, so only a few of those cases got into the media
Peter Abetz | 03 July 2019


Chelsea, with respect, I don't think you fully appreciate what the Folau legal battle is really about. It's not about him getting his job back or getting a payout, although something like that might happen. It's about protecting our right to free speech and our right to express our beliefs and specifically religious beliefs, whatever they are. These rights are integral to our democracy. Christianity, in particular, has been under attack for some time by secularists who want to see it disappear. Once these hard won rights are lost, they will be lost for good. The battle might end up in the High Court. It could be expensive, but it is vital to put up a fight and win. Folau and his advisers are to be commended for fighting this on behalf of all of us who want to preserve our democracy .
PHILIP TEMPLE | 03 July 2019


I see a trend emerging in this debate that is very concerning and that is the fear mongering by some that sick children will die because the donors to the Folau appeal gave their money to that and not to help the children. No one has the right to dictate to me where my charitable donations go to, nor blame me for the death of any sick child. That is outrageous. Fear and scaremongering at it's best. It's none of my business where others spend their money. Conversely, it's none of your business where our family spend our charitable donations. Mind your own business. I very much doubt that those people who have so much to say about this issue would care at all if I were to put money into the RSPCA or other charity. So, what makes this different? This is a classic example of why we must all support Israel Folau for the right to freedom of speech as a Christian without fear of reprisal in some form. Just the mere fact of donating to his appeal has brought out a huge amount of vitriol from many in the other camp. That amount of money may sound huge but when there is a legal battle to the extent of this one, I have no doubt at all that the final cost will far exceed a mere $2.5 million. Litigation is very expensive. If Rugby Australia had compensated him properly, this situation would not be where it is today. Blame them if you must blame someone.
Linda Behan | 03 July 2019


Thanks to Chelsea for writing this essay and raising the profiles of CLCs. But the point of the essay is a bit like Judas’s complaint and Jesus’s response when Mary was anointing him with expensive oil. There will always be poor people and there will always be another worthy cause (not that I consider Folau a worthy cause). Some comments perhaps read too much into the essay and certainly complained too much, but the point that what people do with their money is their own business is valid. In fairness though, Chelsea was just giving an example of one other area where equivalent funding would be enormously useful. We should remember Folau brought this on himself. His million-dollar contract was not torn up because he is a Christian. Many elite sports people are people of various faiths and many speak about their faith. He was sacked after an independent panel found he seriously breached the ARU’s Code of Conduct (not the NRL, Bill Venables). To say his freedom of religion or speech is under attack is nonsense. I’m not surprised the ACL is involved. They are very good at defending the rights of some Christians. If only they were equally generous towards all Christians.
Brett | 03 July 2019


I respect all the opinions expressed here, many of which I have seen expressed far less elegantly on social media (notably Facebook). But at the end of the day what really concerns me in relation to this excellent article is the tactics employed by ACL to persuade so many (22 000 I believe) well intentioned Australians to part with large amounts on of money. With great respect to some earlier correspondents, Israel Folau's case really ISN'T our case.The posting of hate speech memes from the USA (NOT 'verses from the Bible" ) is not something to be encouraged or proud of, even if we have far fewer followers on Instagram than Israel Folau does. Even if we have a right to do so, we have a responsibility not to. I am really hoping that any resolution reached will not compromise our right to post Bible verses (and the right of anyone to quote from their sacred books). But to do so responsibly we should at the very least do so with appropriate citation, including version. That of course may be problematic for Catholics since it lays us open to the accusation that we belong in one of the other groups of immoral Corinthians, namely idolaters. The only place i have ever felt 'in danger'; because of my Christian beliefs is actually on ACL's Facebook page, where self proclaimed 'real' Bible Christians appear not to realise that the Bible was not written in English. And as for the suggestion that a verse needs to be read in context...How dare I? Surely the 'fight' for religious freedom is not meant to be like this?
Margaret | 03 July 2019


`Thank you for this wonderful article, Chelsea. What you have done is to put the issue of making donations into some sort of moral priority. I think that raising $2 million to provide funds to a person who is already a millionaire is quite outrageous when there are so much need in the world. Yes, I agree that community legal aid needs more support, but so do so many other causes eg housing for the homeless, adequate social services, Newstart, effective projects to control pollution, programs to assist overseas aid etc. The fact is that Israel Folau broke his contract by making the comments he did and these comments were used to attack LGBTI people. Some have suggested that Israel has the right to express his religious beliefs and this is true, but the big question is did the founder of Christianity condemn LGBTI people. While there is condemnation of homosexuality in the Old Testament, I do not know of any quotation by Jesus making the same condemnation. Many caring and progressive Australians - including many Christians - have worked hard to bring about a more open, accepting and non discriminatory Australia. I find it very disappointing that some fundamentalists who, because of their limited interpretations of their religious beliefs, undermine this good work. We need to be working for a more caring society that provides adequately for others and has respect for all no matter what their race, sexuality or personal philosophy is.
Andrew (Andy) Alcock | 04 July 2019


Folau is very selective in his quotations - what about: "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Lk 6: 37).
Heather Weedon | 04 July 2019


Peter D. Our Sovereign some time back give a speech on how to treat the poor. Then climbed back into a million pound Bentley and rushed back to one of her 18 palaces. She earns 329 million pounds a year and her son Harry is powerful enough to remove the Ceo of Oxfam. So its a matter of degree. From News.com: "The newlywed Duke and Duchess of Sussex have reportedly added another property to their list of homes — a cottage from the Queen. Adelaide Cottage, near Windsor Castle, has reportedly been gifted to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as their wedding present." Close to his Polo club of course and a second home to their luxury abode in the grounds of Kensington Place. My father helped St Vincent de Paul for 50 years and they are a great charity. The local catholic churches here on the Gold Coast all support St Vincents and World Vision. I think Israel Falau has been victimized for airing his beliefs (something the priests, Imams and vicars of this nation do weekly from the pulpit without recrimination). So if he has raised $2m for his defence costs he is perfectly entitled to it.
Francis Armstrong | 04 July 2019


The Court will decide on the contractual dispute between Folau and his former employer. The rest is a beat up to seek to influence the Parliament in the coming debate about the rights and privileges of Christian religions. If the ACL has indeed started a fund, as Katrina suggests, for all Christians who are discriminated against because of their religion, then it too is discriminating against non-Christians in similar positions. This is another case of a religion advocating for itself and its own interests rather than the general good.
Ginger Meggs | 04 July 2019


Well said. The letter writer to the SMH last weekend quite unfairly criticised Christians for not contributing to much more worthy causes. I hope he reads this article.
TONY BUTLER | 04 July 2019


Hullo Francis Armstrong, I agree with your points about the Royal Family and St Vincent de Paul. But you also write: Foloau "is perfectly entitled to it". The facts are that many people also agree with you on this point and are prepared to financially support his case. All I can truthfully say is: What would I do in the situation if I genuinely felt freedom of religion was the central issue? I would use two or three of my seven properties to fund my own legal expenses and I would probably try and obtain the pro bono services of a willing lawyer. As one who was a member of St Vincent de Paul for nine years I have a sense of those who are doing it tough. But at the core of my interpretation is an objection to a fundamental, literal interpretation of scripture. It's not really about religion but about contract law; it's also about cherry-picking scripture.
PeterD | 04 July 2019


One does not have to agree with all another says or the way he says it. The words a man chooses to perpetuate, his own or from whichever book they are chosen. Are 'his' choice of words. Matthew 12:37
AO | 04 July 2019


I'd recommend a read of George Orwell's '1984' to get an understanding of the breadth of support for Folau's legal defence.
Andrew | 04 July 2019


One wonders whether those who donated the $2 million for Folau would have done so quite as readily if he had included 'Jews' or 'Blacks' in his hateful list. If the logic of the donors' position is that a speaker should face no adverse consequences for stating views that he or she believes can be based on Scripture, then equally there should be no adverse consequences for making anti-Semitic claims (which have a sadly-long history of being articulated by prelates), or racialist claims (for example those of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk in South Africa, which supported apartheid). Have Folau's supporters really thought through what they are saying?
William Maley | 04 July 2019


Let’s not forget the heart of the matter here. Freedom of speech can never be without limit. No one has the right to purposefully and publicly demean another human being. It may not have been Folau’s intention to do so, but he has refused to retract or change the words he used after people have expressed the harm they imply. The problem with the words Folau has chosen to post publicly is that those on the receiving end hear his message as a rejection of their identity, not simply activity he finds scripture to condemn. The words imply a rejection of the homosexual person’s very being, that who they are by birth is unacceptable to God. How can this be? And more to the point of who we are as followers of Christ, would Jesus say such a thing? And even more to the point, would Jesus defend the right of someone else saying such a thing? I think not. Why anyone would want to fund or support Folau’s case needs further serious reflection. I think Eureka Street should publish an in-depth reflection on this case as it continues to disturb our Christian sensibilities.
Charles Fivaz | 05 July 2019


Just imagine the trouble the poor bugger would be in if he quoted, "It is far more difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle".
john frawley | 05 July 2019


John Frawley’s comment about the entry of the rich man into heaven is very pertinent to this discussion. If you read the comment literally in a modern context, one would conclude that it is simply impossible for those who are rich to obtain salvation. But for Judaic Christians of the time of Jesus, the Eye of the Needle was recognised as a gate in Jerusalem, which opened after the main gate was closed at night. A camel could only pass through this smaller gate if it was stooped and had its baggage removed. So the rich are not excluded by Jesus from salvation, but removing excess baggage was an ideal, an exhortation, to strive for. Essentially where one’s heart and primary focus lodged: on wealth or on spiritual values revolving around love of God and love of neighbour. Many born-again Christians believe in fundamentalist, literal translation of the bible so I am not sure, without hermeneutics, John, how they get out of this one as you indicate!
PeterD | 05 July 2019


There is a bigger picture which pertains to employees' use of social media particularly as it relates to religious beliefs. It is being regarded as a test case because the ramifications go well beyond Israel Folau. The implication that those who donated to Folau's case either do not care about or do not give to other charitable causes I found rather insulting. It could be equally applied to when you are next spending money on clothes you don't really need.
Ben Frank | 05 July 2019


John Frawley nails it, PeterD. Fundamentalists are no exegists and so would have no feel for the hermeneutical interpretation that you helpfully offer. Worse than that, they are often followers of the prosperity gospel and consistently blame poverty and misfortune on the wrath (or just punishment) of God.
Michael Furtado | 05 July 2019


I totally agree with Cate (3 July 2019) when she says: "I suspect that the 20,000 who donated are probably the 20% of the population who give 80% of the money for all charitable works. Lastly, I think anyone who thinks Israel Folau is doing this as some kind of ego-trip has obviously never lived through a battle of this scale. He will not be having a fun time with any of this. He's not doing this for kicks" Israel Flau is in fact fithting a battle for us all - which MUST be won if we are not to constant live in fear of being bullied by Gestapo-style "thought-police." Surely in a democracy we are entitled to have FREE SPEECH, to engage in respectful DEBATE on any subject without fear (this now noted by Justice French who specified that in any university, FREE SPEECH and debate was an essential element in exploring the best way to solve problems. Without FREE SPEECH and debate, we would be merely existing in a totalitarian state where NOBODY is entitled to present any idea which may improve society. Thank you thank you thank you Israel Folau for being a man of the most inspiring integrity and immense courage to take on the bullies.
m stewart | 06 July 2019


Ben Frank "hit the nail on the head" when he said: "There is a bigger picture which pertains to employees' use of social media particularly as it relates to religious beliefs. It is being regarded as a test case because the ramifications go well beyond Israel Folau." He speaks also for two other people I know who have spoken out against uncivilized behavior which ought not be "tolerated" for a civilisation to remain civilised ... and then lost their jobs, because the "thought-police were part of "offence-industry". So what suddenly happened to free speech???? Thank you Israel Folau for your courage. God bless you over and over.
m.stewart | 06 July 2019


I don't think anyone should be sacked for expressing their views or beliefs - regardless of how judgmental or hypocritical they are. But if Christian organisations expect to be able to hire and fire people who do or don't comply with their "values", then why shouldn't Rugby AUstralia have the same right. Having said that, I as a homosexual man took no offence to Folau's comments, because I'm quite accustomed to the pharasaical nature of public debate at the moment and would conclude that organisations like The AUstralia Christian Lobby hold view closer to the pharisees than those of Christ. Maybe they should call themselves the Australian Pharasaical Lobby.
AURELIUS | 07 July 2019


I find the logic in this article, and the many just like it rather odd. You talk about 2 million dollars as if it is sitting around in people's pockets waiting for the most worthy cause, and as if the there is zero sum philanthropic economy i.e. every dollar Falou gets is a dollar your particular cause doesn't get. This is poverty thinking - comparing one cause with another. You're free to ask for your own donations
Matthew Davis | 07 July 2019


The Court will determine if this is about free speech and religion, or a contract argument about Folau’s employment terms and conditions. We will find out soon enough how far an employer can go to protect its corporate values, which should be of more than passing interest to religious organisations. The free speech claims are interesting. Nobody has stopped Folau tweeting and, let’s face it, his profile as an elite athlete means his words are far more widely reported than the same comments would be if you or I made them. This is not due to any knowledge on his part; it’s just a fact of his fame. He hasn’t been arrested or forced to flee the country. He still goes to his church openly, his words are still reported in the media and he even gets “interviewed” by Alan Jones. You can’t say he doesn’t have platforms for his opinions. Others have criticised him for his opinions, which they are equally free to do, but Folau’s freedoms don’t seem to be diminished. As for the free speech warriors who defend him, I wonder where their voices were when Yassmin Abdel-Magied was attacked so nastily for her single withdrawn tweet.
Brett | 08 July 2019


I welcome this rich discussion following my article! I have many thoughts of my own, but I think most of them have been canvassed better than I could. I also need to be mindful - like Mr Folau, I have an employer who has a code of conduct which I adhere to.
Chelsea Candy | 08 July 2019


If one wants to convert another. Let him first be as humble as Jesus, whose friends were before meeting Him, prostitutes, drunkards , tax collectors and others 'on the list'. Having been warned the 'first time'. This 'second time' he was asked to go. Understandably. Better had it been to write another' list', where it says: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
AO | 08 July 2019


Well said, AO! Better too if Folau had continued to follow his calling and not denied us the pleasure of seeing his superb brand of sportsmanship than venture into the realms of fundamentalist sloganizing that does sportsmen and those they think they influence no good at all.
Michael Furtado | 11 July 2019


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