The controversy surrounding Israel Folau

Let’s just say that I wouldn’t have done the same. I don’t necessarily disagree with the message, but it has too narrow a focus. After all, the bible says “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. And so to say “Warning: Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators – Hell awaits you. Repent! Only Jesus saves.” in a public tweet is to invite controversy and misunderstanding; certainly not repentance.

That Instagram post carried the message, “Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.” and quoted Galatians 5:19,

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19‭-‬21 KJV”.

Despite addressing a wide variety of sins, and a message that is essentially a call to repentance, Israel Folau’s tweet has been condemned as homophobic, and Folau characterised as a bully, a “f-ing” misinformed bigot who is spreading hate, by fellow rugby players.

Israel Folau is a key member of Australia’s Wallabies, the national rugby union team. But as a result of his tweet, Rugby Australia has decided to sack him from the team.

Billy Vunipola, a member of the England squad defended Folau, on Instagram, saying, “So this morning I got 3 phone calls from people telling me to ‘unlike’ the @izzyfolau post. This is my position on it. I don’t HATE anyone neither do I think I’m perfect. There just comes a point when you insult what I grew up believing in that you just say enough is enough, what he’s saying isn’t that he doesn’t like or love those people. He’s saying how we live our lives needs to be closer to how God intended them to be. Man was made for woman to pro create that was the goal no? I’m not perfect I’m at least everything on that list at least at one point in my life. It hurts to know that. But that’s why I believe there’s a God. To guide and protect us and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Saracens (the rugby club Vunipola plays for) have formally warned Billy Vunipola over his controversial social media posts which defended the Australia international Israel Folau’s “homophobia”.

Saracens made clear that they believe Vunipola made “a serious error of judgement in publicly sharing his opinion, which is inconsistent with the values of the club and contravenes his contractual obligations”.

Billy Vunipola has also been dropped as the face of Channel 4’s European rugby coverage.

A Channel 4 spokesman said on Friday: ”These views are incompatible with our values as an inclusive broadcaster. In light of this Billy Vunipola will not be used as a contributor in Channel 4’s coverage.”

And, the 26-year-old is set to meet with the Rugby Football Union, the body that governs English Rugby, over his support for Folau.

The only sane response I found was from Australian Liberal MP Tim Wilson, a gay MP, who proposed to his husband in parliament while speaking on the same-sex marriage bill in 2017:

“There is a need for people to be able to express their views on something like religion, and their religious beliefs, without censorship,” Mr Wilson told the ABC.

“I don’t know the details of the EBA or the contractual arrangements that sit between (Rugby Australia) and Israel Folau, but I would have thought that Rugby Australia should be very cautious in how they are conducting themselves.

“Rugby isn’t just a game for people who are agnostic or atheist. In a free, pluralistic democracy, that should have space for everybody to express their opinion.”

Mr Wilson said there were often provisions in employment contracts that prevent employees from making statements that do “unnecessary harm or damage”.

“Quoting the Bible or reciting a well established position around morality and private morality I don’t think crosses that line,” he said.

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