Who is Causing Youth Suicide — FitzSimons or Folau?

Some apparatchiks amongst the leftist media elite—i.e. The Guardian—are claiming that the primary reason Israel Folau should be immediately sacked by Rugby Australia is that his words are causing LGBTIQ youth to commit suicide. For instance, former NRL star and the first openly gay footballer, Ian Roberts, was quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald as saying:

I don’t say this lightly and what I’m about to say, the language I use is hard and it’s for a point, it’s to get that message across. There are literally kids in the suburbs killing themselves. I say that with the greatest sense of respect and I’m not implying that Israel is responsible solely for that — please don’t take it that way — but it’s these types of comments and these types of off-the-cuff remarks when you have young people and vulnerable people … who are dealing with their sexuality, confused, not knowing how to deal with it.

Before offering a response, let me be clear. One youth suicide is too many. And there is no excuse for violence or inciting hatred against other people, no matter what their sexuality, race or religion.

However, we should consider whether Roberts’ inflammatory words might cause more unintended harm than Folau’s. Melinda Selmys—a former lesbian—warns in her book, Sexual Authenticity:

I am exceedingly wary of attempts to put the onus for gay suicide on “heterosexist” culture. It is not in the interest of any teenager – gay, straight, transsexual, or non-sexually identifying – to be told that suicide is a natural reaction to their reality. I have struggled with depression and suicidal temptations since youth; the removal of moral culpability has never been a help and a comfort when I am working through feelings of inadequacy and self-hatred. On the contrary, the only thing that kept me from taking my own life was a feeling that I was profoundly culpable, that I was responsible to people who would suffer for my decisions. To be able to say, ‘It’s not my fault, I had no choice, too much was expected of me, society made me do it’ has only ever helped make it easier to entertain thoughts of self-annihilation.

Tiffany Jones, who is one of the authors of Writing Themselves In 3—a resource of the Safe Schools Coalition—has warned that the line of reasoning used by Roberts might be contributing to youth suicide rather than actually preventing it. Dr David van Gend, in his best-selling book, Stealing from a Child (Connor Court, 2016) quotes Jones as saying:

[The] Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD 2011) warned staff against perpetuating ‘suicide contagion’ among GLBTIQ youth… Harwood and Rasmussen (2004) argued that the focus on GLBTIQ youth discrimination and suicide encouraged students to express GLBTIQ identity using a conflated woundedness through risky behaviours, neediness or creating appropriate ‘adolescence horror stories…”

This is a crucial point. Because as van Gend—who is himself a medical practitioner—explains:

There is a real risk in continually telling young LGBTQ people they are victims of society’s homophobia and expecting them to be depressed and suicidal… Nobody denies that same-sex attracted people suffer disproportionately from depression and emotional distress, but never once, in my experience as a GP, has a patient’s depression or distress been due to the “bigoted opinions” of straight society. It has always been due to something private and personal… There are as many causes of inner distress as there are individuals. It infantilises same-sex attracted individuals if we treat them as victims who cannot cope.

However, this is where a real inconsistency comes in. Because when journalists, such as Peter FitzSimons, denigrate and disparage people of faith—especially those who are Muslim and Christian—does anyone think that this puts the lives of young religious people at risk? And as Associate Professor of law Neil James Foster argues, FitzSimons’ comments are not just “insulting” but may even be an example of “religious vilification”.

For instance, in regards to the Islamic faith FitzSimons has said:

Islam is as much complete gibberish as the rest of them, and in its case too often used as inspiration for terrorist acts with catastrophic consequences.

But when it comes to Christianity, FitzSimons is even more scathing:

That a cosmic Jewish zombie who is his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and drink his blood, while telepathically telling him that you can accept him as your master, so that he can remove an evil force from your soul which is present in all humanity because a woman made out of one rib bone and a mound of dirt was tricked into eating fruit from a magical tree by a talking snake.

Now, it is widely acknowledged that Christians are the most persecuted religious group on the planet. In fact, the BBC recently reported that the persecution has reached “genocide” levels. Hence, if anyone needs protection from hate-speech is it not those who are religious? And yet, it is never even countenanced that the lives of young believers might be in danger from the constant atheistic vitriol.

As Will Swanton recently argued in The Australian, Christian rugby players are being “told to shut up”. As Swanton writes:

Young Christians catch wind of the mockery, disgust, disdain and looming unemployment thrown Folau’s way and begin to wonder if Jesus is any more real than the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus.

If Folau is harming young people coming to grips with their sexuality by consigning them to the naughty corner in the afterlife, what is RA doing to teenage Christians?

But I digress. Let me return to the original social media post made by Folau. Included in the list of behaviours that 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 will incur divine sanction are ‘drunkards’. One of the most significant issues we face as a community is that of underage drinking. The Australian Government provides the following summary of the problem:

Why is it that no one is objecting that Folau’s social media post is leading to young people struggling with substance from taking their own lives? Why is it that the only people susceptible to committing self-harm are homosexuals and not any of the other types of behaviour? Because singling out LGBTIQ people only further stigmatises them and continues to perpetuate the narrative that they are especially vulnerable because they are psychologically weak.

This was a common line of argument used by those from the ‘Yes’ campaign who sought to change the definition of marriage. In particular, the Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, argued that the reason why we shouldn’t have a plebiscite was because, “we’ll see young people take their lives”. Further, back in August 2015, Peter van Onselen asked Bruce Billson, Federal Minister for Small Business:

Can you first just explain to me why it is an acceptable thing, the number of young Australians who are homosexual that will commit suicide between now and when the government finally gets its act together to have a plebiscite on this issue?

What’s more, Benjamin Law, based this entire 80-page argument of his Quarterly Essay around the tragic suicide of 13-year-old Tyrone Unsworth as an example of homophobic bullying and the reason for the Safe Schools Program. Somewhat embarrassingly for Law, though, there is enormous debate as to the question of Unsworth’s sexuality. Because not only did Unsworth’s school state that there were no reports of homophobic bullying but his grandmother, Francis “Twiggy” Jones, was reported in the ABC as saying:

“He was not gay,” she says emphatically. “My grandson was not gay.”

Would it have been a problem if he was? “Nup,” she says. “It would have been good if he was. We’re all born one breed.”

In his book, Stealing from a Child (Connor Court, 2016) David van Gend writes:

Nobody denies that same-sex attracted people suffer disproportionately from depression and emotional distress, but never once, in my experience as a GP, has a patient’s depression or distress been due to the “bigoted opinions” of straight society. It has always been due to something private and personal: perhaps the trauma of domestic violence from a lesbian partner, or self-disgust at their own compulsive sexual behaviour, or unresolved anger at childhood sexual abuse, or the spiritual grief of holding values that conflict with their unwanted sexual impulses – not to mention the trauma of a diagnosis of HIV or other STD so heavily focused on the male homosexual population. This is what drives their depression and distress, in my experience, not whether or not there are laws out there for gay marriage.

Van Gend also quotes the Jewish psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, who writes in his book, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth (Baker, 1996):

Some of this is in fact, as activists claim, because all-too-often he experiences from others cold lack of sympathy or even open hostility…But it is not true, as activists claim, that these are the only or even the major stresses. Much distress is caused simply by his way of life – for example, the medical consequences, AIDS being just once of many (if also the worst). He also lives with the guilt and shame that he inevitable feels over his compulsive, promiscuous behaviour; and too, over the knowledge that he cannot relate effectively to the opposite sex and is less likely to have a family.

I must say, though, that I found it morally inconsistent that Roberts took it upon himself to censure Folau for endangering others when he used to be known as “The Most Violent Man in Rugby League”—remember what he did to Gary Jack?—as well as having had an AVO issued against himself by a former partner.

But with that said, no one has asked Roberts to prove what he is confidently asserting. I mean, how does he know Folau’s comments are contributing to youth suicide? What proof does he have? In particular, where is the statistical evidence that, “There are literally kids in the suburbs killing themselves”?

According to the homosexual academic, Dr Rob Clover, from the University of Western Australia, “the actual rate of GLBTIQ youth suicide and self-harm is not fully known.” What scientific data does Roberts have then that Clover doesn’t? Or are we to simply #believeallgaymen?

However, wouldn’t it be tragic—as well as more than a little ironic—if the comments made by media apparatchiks such as FitzSimons and Roberts were making the incidence of youth suicide amongst LGBTIQ people even worse?

Maybe it’s time we treated LGBTIQ youth with more dignity and respect by—as van Gend insightfully argues—stop ‘infantilising’ them as people. In fact, maybe it’s time we re-affirmed as a culture that all young lives matter, whether they’re straight, religious, or gay.

By |2019-05-20T09:30:17+00:00May 20th, 2019|Australia, Authors, Life|25 Comments

About the Author:

Mark Powell has six children and he is a Presbyterian minister at Cornerstone Church in Strathfield, Sydney. Mark writes for the Spectator Magazine and is a passionate advocate for faith and family and has been on radio and TV advocating for Freedom, Faith, Family and Life.

25 Comments

  1. Carley McGrath May 20, 2019 at 8:38 am - Reply

    i think there needs to be a lot of discussion around what is behind the increase in suicide and we definitely don’t want to silence people like Israel. Good article

    • Pearl Miller June 8, 2019 at 1:37 am - Reply

      Hi Carley…It may seem like a mystery but here is how I see it……The teaching of evolution does not make people special…with a soul, made in the image of God…we are just mammals like others in the animal kingdom….coming from milleniums of ” the survival of the fittest’……that is how people can justify murder….aborting precious children, euthanasing people….using people/children as sex slaves etc….without God and the Bible the world is in total darkness…everything is justifiable and death looks like the only solution to the misery that is “life” for so many……depression and youth suicide is the result of living in a pro-death culture…life has no value or meaning….BUT let Jesus love you and save you and give your life a meaning and a purpose….to “go everywhere and do good” as He did and life is a joy and inspiration….Have you met Jesus Carley?

  2. Monica Bennett-Ryan May 20, 2019 at 9:13 am - Reply

    Insightful article.

  3. John Roulston May 20, 2019 at 9:22 am - Reply

    Thanks Mark, a great article
    The attack on freedoms as we have always known, are to squashed. May more Israel Folaus , stick their head for Christian freedom The most prominent church leaders have been too quiet , except Margaret Court, God bless her.

  4. Kate May 20, 2019 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    Let’s pray that all people living in the darkness of sin (whether it is homosexual or adulterous relationships, drunkenness or any of the multitude of other sins) may seek God’s forgiveness and enjoy His Mercy and the joys of living a pure Christian life. After all, that is what Israel Folau was trying to encourage people to do, so that we sinners may one day reach Heaven. We all need God’s Mercy and Forgiveness as even “little sins” such as swearing or mean comments, selfishness or sins of omission offend God.

  5. Alauni May 21, 2019 at 10:13 am - Reply

    This is why l comment on the media post be4 ..They are the one who say it on tv and put those ideas in young people’s head

  6. Ryan May 21, 2019 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    Fitzsimmons or Folau?
    Of course Folau.
    Bigotry like his discredits Christianity and drives people away from the church

  7. John Simons May 22, 2019 at 10:00 am - Reply

    Fitzsimmons of course with his angry ourburst coupled with foul language and anti Christian outburst!
    Folau very much at peace and standing firm on Holy scripture !

  8. Chinh Dinh May 24, 2019 at 7:09 am - Reply

    Thank you so much Mark Powell.

  9. Brenda Pulley May 24, 2019 at 9:21 am - Reply

    Thankyou Mark for an insightful comment, your last paragraph reflects my own thoughts. Thanks once again, when there are so many voices out there it is great to actually read thoughts that God would agree with (The last paragraph).

  10. Margaret Kennedy May 24, 2019 at 10:48 am - Reply

    A clear and honest article. May I also very lovingly suggest to our brother Israel that when we give a reason for the hope that is in us, we do it with gentleness and respect so that those who revile us are put to shame by our good behaviour. This is the recommendation of the Apostle Peter, using Jesus in His death as the supreme example. And when in the heat of the moment, we do not show gentleness or respect, then we need God to convict us of that and for us to apologise, not for the truth but perhaps for the manner in which we presented it. “Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul.” (Proverbs 16: 24) and it is these souls over whom Jesus weeps.

  11. Phil Davey May 24, 2019 at 11:32 am - Reply

    It is important to be able to evaluate someone’s opinion against their previous expressed opinions. In Fitzsimmons case the evaluation is ‘of course he would say that’. It is also important that there is a memory or record of statements made by public figures that have an impact on how our society responds to issues. We cannot say for sure that Israel’s comments caused anyone to suicide, and we cannot say the same for Fitzsimmons. 2400 years ago the philosopher Socrates was sentenced to death for corrupting the youth, however available evidence suggest that he was sentenced because of his opponents’ jealousy, hatred or pride. We must be extremely vigilant to ensure that this mindset does not infect our judges, and our CEOs.

  12. A. Kenseley May 24, 2019 at 12:18 pm - Reply

    With much gratitude for this objective information.
    This should be printed in every newspaper throughout Australia and copy to all HighnSchools!
    Praise be to God who provides us with those stranding up for the truth with such wise guidance.

    • Pearl Miller June 8, 2019 at 1:41 am - Reply

      Amen! Praise be to God!

  13. Gerredina May 24, 2019 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    Why is the homosexual so troubled by someone saying that his lifestyle is not good for him/her? Could it be that deep in their heart they know! Changing a lifestyle is enormously difficult, especially in this day, because the “gay” lifestyle is accepted and when/if a person steps out of it the persecution by their own kind is unrelenting and the unbelief by others is nothing to sneeze at either.
    Could it be that they are trouble knowing that they feel helpless, especially because the government (who should stay out of private lives) declares that conversion therapy doesn’t work. Many men and women will testify it does work and they have become mothers and fathers. I again realize it isn’t for everyone, but the choice should be given freely, but even that freedom is threatened, the freedom of choice. Many young people experiment and left to their own devices, eventually come good, but too many well-meaning people immediately suppose their experimentation is a forever choice.
    God made them man and woman, so let’s encourage that instead of encouraging them the other way.

  14. Andrew C May 24, 2019 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    Well argued

  15. Mary Jordon May 24, 2019 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    People like to put the blame on everybody, when the truth is staring them in the face! They dont know their true identity, as a son or daughter of God, who loves each human being unconditionally. Their faith has not been taught at home by the parents, family life is not God centered. Where the family unit has been threatened and taken over by the courts, if you dont have a rock solid faith, who are you going to believe in when life crumbles around you. The parents are security for kids and they feel safe and loved when the parents are united. What happens when the parents divorce, the childrens lives are shattered. Besides there are some parents who are allowing their kids to do whatever they like, have total freedom and believe in whatever you like and financed as well!. That sort of lifestyle is hollow. The kids graduate from school, have no firm faith, values, etc., and go out to college, uni, work and find themselves mixing with people doing whatever they like and soon they are caught up in situations that they cant handle, which leads to depression.

  16. Sue May 25, 2019 at 12:16 pm - Reply

    Could you give the references to verify the quotes from Peter FitzSimons please.

  17. Bronwyn May 25, 2019 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    Persecution comes at sometime in our lives. We can overcome! Words are powerful but the truth of God’s word is absolute! Children are being robbed of the truth when his word is kept from them through fear of their rebellion! Teach them anyway! Give them the choice they deserve.

  18. Nancy Klum May 26, 2019 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    I honestly can not understand how anyone can try to blame Youth Suicide on Israel Folau. Youth suicide is a terrible reflection on our society on a whole. I feel the media is partly to blame always promoting the so called beautiful and the so called successful people in society. This whole theme promotes lack of confidence in many young people – I am not good enough, popular enough, am too fat, am too skinny, am not pretty enough and the list goes on. I believe this promotion of the wonderful and wealthy also leads the so called “in groups” to bully the quieter and less confident in schools – an area that I know Mr Morrison is wanting to address and I sincerely hope the Labor and senate allow him room to carry his intentions through, and that they help him and put through ideas, and not block everything because they can.

    The fact that Israel was sacked is appalling- not the whole verse but over part of that verse of scripture. – I wonder if the Rugby Australia were to look again at the full context of what was written, that they might see that is could be possible that the person holding the purse strings of Qantas, may be a little insecure himself so threatens to withdraw sponsorship money- because I personally feel that was the main reason the decision was made. After all in our society who cares if Mr Roberts is gay, or Elton John etc – no one should have taken offence at Scripture that has been our traditional value for 2000 years and is what most of our constitution in this country is based on.

    My point is – insecurity and feelings of low self worth are at the base of a lot of suicides – a terrible and over whelming sense that no one loves me or cares if I live or die, I will never be good enough – depression – that awful blackness that I suspect nearly all of us face at times but overwhelmingly more so for many others. Our breakdown in society and moving away from our Christian heritage has a lot to do with this – because as we move away our tolerance, forgiveness, lack of respect and lack of confidence has taken its place and Youth suicide and suicide in our menfolk and women has been a victim of this moving away from traditional human values.

    Our society yells from the roof tops – inclusion, tolerance and many more – but sadly the harder we try the more we fail – our old values need to be reinstated based on love and respect for one another regardless of background, colour, religion or where we came from – our good old fashion Bible is a good starting point.

    • Pearl Miller June 8, 2019 at 1:17 am - Reply

      He quoted scripture……repent and be saved…..praying or you….

  19. Marie May 27, 2019 at 11:56 am - Reply

    Well done Mark

  20. Maynessa June 2, 2019 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    Helpful article

  21. Steve Adams June 10, 2019 at 9:27 am - Reply

    Thank you Mr Powell. So refreshing to read such a common sense, well written article that expresses the thoughts of millions of Australians that never seem to rate a mention in the mainstream media.

  22. Mark Elvery June 18, 2019 at 10:58 am - Reply

    Roberts and Fitzsimons seem to be escalating issues more so than Folau. May be it would be appropriate to say that they need to keep their necks in. What’s the old saying in rugby about coat hangers? All I can say, is ‘Here, here!’ Fitzsimons hopefully will have an, ‘Aha’ moment where he meets Jesus before death when he will face that “imaginary” deity and have an, ‘Uh-Oh’ moment. Pray for him.

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