By Alan Jones for The Australian.
It has been clear for months now that Rugby Australia do not listen. After all, they might have heeded some of the grassroots advice they have received.
But it is now clear, in relation to the Israel Folau affair, that they can’t read either.
The issue around Folau is really quite simple. You either believe in God or you don’t. You are either a Christian or you are not.
I have no problem with which route is chosen by an individual; but if you do not believe in the heaven and hell thing, then there is no hell; so how could you be offended by what Folau posted from the Bible?
But if you are a Christian, or claim to be a Christian and you do believe in heaven and hell, and the word of Jesus Christ, then you should be living according to God’s word.
Or are some people pretending to be Christians and picking and choosing which doctrines they will adhere to?
If you are a Christian, what Folau posted is truth. You might think it is out of date or not relevant or not contemporary, but a committed Christian believes in that so could not in any way be offended.
And if you are not a Christian, then there is no such thing as hell. So what is the kerfuffle?
Thank goodness for social media.
As I have said, it is clear Rugby Australia either can’t read or do not care about their constituency, or both. Or are they comforted by the fact that everyone on the payroll has toed the party line.
How extraordinary that not one single person on the payroll of Rugby Australia has dared to step out of line and say simply that this Folau issue is a heap of crock.
I was asked to write two pieces for The Australian last week. It is a matter of public record that they were viewed by more than 2.3 million people on my Facebook page. There were more than 10,000 individual comments.
On The Australian’s website, where you can only comment if you are a subscriber, there were 1900 further individual comments.
The overwhelming majority of these comments support Folau and his right to basic freedoms.
Rugby Australia argue that one of their values is “inclusiveness”, but they don’t want to “include” Folau; more importantly, they obviously don’t want to “include” the supporters of the game.
There is a golden rule in life. When you are digging a hole for yourself and getting deeper and deeper into trouble, it is a good idea to stop digging.
Yet here are Rugby Australia, on the wrong side of their constituency on almost every other issue, now isolating thousands of fans by prosecuting Folau for expressing his religious beliefs. The public comments are telling:
Carolyn: “Thank you Alan for such a well-written article. May God richly bless you for standing up and supporting this young man and the right of all Christians to share our faith.”
That is a touch indulgent, but Carolyn is surely entitled to her view.
Or, when Rugby talks “diversity”, does it really mean “uniformity”?
Fred: “If they drop Folau, I’ll drop rugby. No support, no going to games, no watching it on TV.”
Susan: “This is discrimination and humiliation of an individual on the basis of his religious beliefs. The only victim here is Israel Folau.”
Adam: “I spend $1500 a year on tickets to watch the Wallabies. This year I won’t be spending a cent. Leave Israel alone Rugby Australia.”
Cassie: “Why was Alan Joyce allowed to use his platform as Qantas CEO to push his agenda and Folau not?”
Maria: “Goodbye rugby union. I have been a fan of the Wallabies since I was young. You have lost me forever.”
Andrew: “I’m out. I’m done with rugby. I’ll never watch it again.”
John: “The RA Board needs to go and so does the CEO of Qantas.”
Corey: “Political correctness has infected all media and sports codes. Rugby Australia are scared to offend a 2 per cent minority.”
George: “The Folau incident is forcing us to ponder … are we still a Christian country?”
Gerrard: “It is amazing how politicians are praised for respecting our Christian traditions by not campaigning at Easter but Israel Folau loses his job for upholding the same traditions. Perhaps we need rugby sponsors who believe and uphold our western Judaeo-Christian values.”
At least Kent put a smile on our faces when he wrote: “My experience of hell is watching the Wallabies play.”
There are simple fundamental questions at work here. Can a sponsor include any conditions it likes to control the activities of all the employees of the organisation it is sponsoring?
Yet the same sponsor can enter a commercial partnership with countries that openly commit atrocities against gay people.
This has all reached farcical proportions. I see one headline which says: “If Rugby Australia doesn’t successfully expel Folau, World Rugby will have to.”
Are these people on something? This is brewing as a massive and expensive legal issue. There are tens of thousands of people signing petitions in support of a world-class player.
Rugby Australia seem to be driving the process as an employment contract breach. Folau and his supporters see this as an infringement of civil liberties; that citizens of this so-called free country should be entitled to share their religious beliefs.
All Folau has done is quote 2000-year-old scripture.
As Thomas Jefferson said in relation to the US constitutional right to the freedom of speech, expressing one’s own beliefs, is “neither picking my pocket nor breaking my leg”.
The politically correct do-gooders do not have to listen to or agree with Folau.
But if Folau was offering a Christian warning to so-called sinners, and he managed to rope us all in, I was made aware of a more significant warning only this week by someone who read what I had written.
I was reminded that Martin Niemöller, a German theologian, had been a prominent pastor of an influential parish in Berlin-Dahlem from 1931 until his arrest in July 1937.
His incarceration, first in Moabit Prison, then in Sachsenhausen and finally in Dachau in 1945 brought feelings of shame and guilt for some of his positions since 1933.
And it prompted his famous confession:
“First, they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”
What an incongruity on this matter that some speak out because money speaks; and some are frightened to speak out because money speaks.
If Folau is wrong, then do we burn the Bible?
The German-Jewish poet Heinrich Heine once declared:
“Wherever books are burnt, humans are destined to be burnt too.”
Folau now faces a code of conduct panel. His post was on April 10.
The hearing is on May 4. What does that say about justice delayed? And what anyway is the panel about?
Rugby Australia has ignored its own processes and protocols. Before any chance was given for Folau to defend himself, he has been punished, condemned, defamed and humiliated.
After all, NSW played last week. He was not picked. The Australian coach says he won’t be picked for the Wallabies.
The captain of Australia and NSW says he won’t play in the same team as Folau. Will selectors tell that young man that he doesn’t pick the team? Or has the whole show gone completely mad?
Do the professionally offended believe they have won? If Folau is finished, I am sorry but Rugby Australia is finished too.
The administrative changes that I have argued for, for months now, must immediately occur.
But on this issue, there can be only one result; and how the phalanx of people advising Rugby Australia don’t see it is unbelievable. Stop digging the hole. Stop further damaging the game. Stop dragging this mess out any further. Have the decency to practice the “inclusiveness” you boast about.
We need a leader to bring all parties together and start again. Rugby Australia and Qantas cannot win. If they win, Australia loses.
One final point. Please tell the volunteers and the battlers out there in clubland that Qantas should be made to pay for all the costs involved. Without their involvement, we would not be in this space. And if Qantas have not put the gun to the head of Rugby Australia, say so and I am happy to report it.
But back to where we began. Can someone in Rugby Australia read the judgment of the Federal Court in Brisbane 10 days ago in relation to the distinguished James Cook University professor Peter Ridd.
He too was sacked for expressing sincerely held scientific views.
The Federal court found the university’s treatment of this eminent professor was unlawful. Termination became vindication.
I suspect a similar outcome awaits Folau.