Australian rugby great Israel Folau is two days into his kangaroo court trial for quoting the Bible on social media. Rugby Australia has confirmed that the code of conduct hearing will continue for a third day on Tuesday, with experts tipping that a final verdict may be weeks or even years away if a settlement isn’t reached.
Izzy is in hot water for expressing beliefs that corporate giants Rugby Australia and Qantas say aren’t inclusive enough. What these corporations should explain is how tearing up Folau’s $4 million contract, simply for expressing a tenet of his religious faith, is somehow consistent with their own inclusion policies.
In the words of Alan Jones, former coach of the Australia national rugby union team,
“How odd that Rugby Australia preaches ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusiveness’ when what they really mean is uniformity or exclusion.”
Media personalities and other stakeholders are scrambling over each other to express their outrage at Folau’s Christian beliefs.
Even the boss of Sport Australia, Kate Palmer, has praised Rugby Australia for targeting Folau, urging other codes to follow their example, saying, “divisive and discriminatory beliefs [are] harmful to sport and the broader Australian community.” Ironically, she’s unable to see that her beliefs about Folau fit the same description.
This is only the beginning of the astounding hypocrisy of Israel Folau’s haters. Consider three more examples that should be making headlines.
1. The Qantas and Emirates Partnership
It’s 2007. Alexander Robert, a 15 year old from Switzerland, bursts into tears as a Dubai police doctor, having inspected him, insinuates that he has had consensual gay sex. In truth, he was kidnapped by three men, held at knifepoint in the desert, and raped.
UAE authorities discouraged Alexander’s family from pressing charges, and they also failed to inform him of the HIV status of one of his attackers. This is just one of a string of stories of injustice in the emirate city of Dubai.
In 2008, two women were arrested and jailed for a month each for kissing on a Dubai beach. In 2011, two expats in Dubai were given a year in jail for having sex in a car. A year later, another gay couple received a six month jail term after being seen by a cleaner having sex in a public toilet.
More alarming still is that any of these people could have suffered the death penalty, given that homosexuality is still punishable by death in Dubai.
All of this points to a staggering hypocrisy on the part of Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, who is a gay man himself. Qantas, the national flag carrier of Australia, enjoys a formal partnership with Emirates, the flagship airline of Dubai.
Since the beginning of their six-year partnership, Joyce has voiced no concern over Dubai’s abject violation of human rights towards the gay community. Yet he was one of the first to throw Israel Folau to the lions merely for voicing his beliefs online, saying the star’s social media comments “clearly don’t reflect the spirit of inclusion and diversity that we support.”
Sports columnist Mark Reason summed it up well when he said,
“It seems very peculiar that Rugby Australia can partner with Qantas, whose sister airline is Emirates, the flagship of a state where homosexuality is a jailable offence, and yet cast Folau out into the wilderness.”
Even gay activists have labelled the hypocrisy of it all a kind of “queer fascism”.
It’s tempting to speculate that Qantas doesn’t hate intolerance—it just hates Christians. But let’s be charitable and assume that they just love profit more than their own principles.
2. Racial Prejudice Against Pacific Islanders
The untold story in the Izzy saga is the racial prejudice that Rugby Australia has shown towards its pacific islander players. One third of last year’s World Cup team were Polynesian—many of them considering their Christian faith central to their identity.
One of these is “Tongan Thor” Taniela Tupou, part of the national squad, who last week took to social media with these brave words:
“Seriously might as well sack me and all the other Pacific Islands rugby players around the world because we have the same Christian beliefs. I will never apologise for my faith and what I believe in, religion had nothing to do with rugby anyways.”
This was after Billy Vunipola was given the sack by the UK’s Channel 4 as the face of their European rugby coverage for defending Folau’s Instagram post. Vunipola plays for the English national team but was born to Tongan parents.
But the witch hunt didn’t stop there. Vunipola was issued with a formal warning by the UK’s Rugby Football Union, a mark that will remain on his disciplinary record for five years and may impact the future of his career.
Over Easter, another wallaby, Samu Kerevi, quoted John 3:16 on Instagram with the words, “Thank You Jesus for dying on the cross for me. I love you Jesus”—and then spent the next few days in the spotlight trying to work out whether he should apologise for his post or stand by it.
If Rugby Australia are successful in tearing up Izzy’s $4 million contract, they may win the battle but lose the war. Some commentators warn of a Polynesian revolt from the national team.
Not only will this risk their own financial ruin, but it will expose Raelene Castle and Rugby Australia’s hypocrisy further as they seek to colonise Pacific Island players with their predominantly white, demonstrably narrow, queer-normative viewpoint.
3. “No” Voters in the Postal Plebiscite Betrayed
When same-sex marriage was debated in the lead-up to the postal vote, many Australians of faith were genuinely concerned about the impact it would have on religious freedom in our nation— in particular, freedom of speech.
While the more moderate voices in parliament took these concerns seriously, many dismissed this fear out-of-hand, labelling it a red herring, a scare tactic, or even a trojan horse to advance discrimination against minorities.
Labor leader Bill Shorten told a press conference that same-sex marriage posed no threat to religious practice, saying that all such talk was a “distraction” and a “separate discussion”.
Fiona McLeod, President of the Australian Law Council, long-standing supporters of the “Yes” vote said,
“Extending the right to marry to same-sex couples will not impact upon another fundamental right, freedom of religion.”
Alex Greenwich, co-convener of Australian Marriage Equality, proclaimed with confidence that
“There are clear, strong and robust religious protections in the draft legislation.”
Even members of the Liberal party lined up with their reassurances. “You can have religious freedom and you can have same sex marriage and by Christmas we’ll have both,” George Brandis, then Attorney-General, famously declared.
“As strongly as I believe in the right of same-sex couples to marry, even more strongly, if you like, do I believe in religious freedom.”
Where are they all now?
One of Australia’s greatest sporting heroes is having his career shredded simply for challenging the new (eighteen-month-young) orthodoxy, and they stand by in silence—or worse, join in the “crucify” chorus.
Hypocrisy doesn’t even begin to describe it.
You might dislike Folau’s faith or the way he expressed it. But regardless of your religious views, it’s time for all concerned Australians to stand up and defend free speech while we still have it.