A two-edged sword: What might justice look like?

Senator Eric Abetz has taken up the cause of Israel Folau. He has taken the matter to the fair Work Commission, based on the fact that Israel was dismissed for expressing his Christian views outside the workplace.

He stated, ‘The common understanding of the Fair Work Act from all parties is that an employee cannot be sacked over their religious views.’ He emphasised that Folau wrote on social media outside the work environment and was free to do so. Religious freedom.

Barnaby Joyce ‘is pushing for religious belief to be exempt from employment contracts’. (SBS News)

Israel Folau is simply a case in point. He was treated unjustly as the law currently stands. Circumstances do seem to have been manipulated against him. He did appear to run foul of the politically-correct brigade and social warrior commerce with which society has now been saddled. We ought not to shrink from our blood-bought family connection with him.

But we must make ourselves fully aware of what his reinstatement may mean for us all. I speak not as a lawyer—I am not a lawyer’s bootlace. I am reflecting as an observer of human nature. Social attitudes are not being framed by the law; the law is being adjusted by social attitudes and human nature. We are not where we are because in the first instance the law has changed, but because social attitudes have changed. In the Folau case, the law was secondary to the affronted new ideologies.

If exonerated and reinstated, Israel Folau will become the precedent, not just for commercial entities but also Christian organisations who wish their employees to uphold the organisation’s core doctrines and practices. If the ruling is that ‘Religious belief cannot be grounds for dismissal’, it will cut both ways.

It will mean that in Christian school, for example, a teacher with previously undisclosed private beliefs or sexual proclivities or whatever, who begins to champion those views in public, outside the workplace, he or she will not be able to be dismissed. Even if expressed in social media with a million followers, thereby denigrating the organisation by association, if the views can be brought under the heading ‘religious belief’ it will not be a dismissible offense.

That is the ‘Folau’ argument—private religious views expressed in his own personal social media accounts do not represent a dismissible offense.

And if Barnaby Joyce’s argument gets up, nor will any contract be able to include clauses that might suggest restrictions on a religious basis. Unless there are exemptions for religious organisations. And, by observation, exemptions really get up the nose of our militant detractors. I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that exemptions would seem to become less likely to be granted if we are the ones currently arguing against the right to dismiss on religious grounds. If we wish to bind Rugby Australia, for example, why ought we not be bound?

We cannot abandon brothers and sisters who fall foul of political correctness or any of the current brace of fashionable neo-Marxist ideologies. But we need to structure into our thinking that justice is almost always a two-edged sword, because it is legislated and administered by frail humanity.

It is important to recognise this. There is a possibility that a victory in which we see the law overturn the right of any entity to terminate the employment of someone on religious grounds will be a Pyrrhic victory. The loss will be our freedom as Christians to restrict or terminate an employee on the basis of religious grounds. Even gross anti-Christian sentiments expressed on social media. And, as per Barnaby Joyce, we will not be able to write escape clauses into contracts.

In response, to invent a secondary or trumped-up reason for dismissal would make us like those we oppose. To become champions of the restriction of an employee’s religious freedom would be equally untenable when we currently argue for no restriction for Israel Folau. Either way, we will have been swept into the corner we actually helped to construct.

We ought to stand with beleaguered brothers and sisters! But we need to be ready for the ramifications. Prepared can become pre-prayed. And this can perhaps help us work towards finding solutions outside the law courts (as well as in them).

In many of the serious documents coming from the first few centuries of our faith, when our brothers and sisters faced Roman brutality far greater than we can possibly imagine, they did not—nor could they—argue at law for their rights at law. Their defence was their godly lives and the tangible displays of community that saw them cover the loss and deprivation of any and all members who suffered the attacks of the authorities. Absorbing them into the community and family that transcended all human associations, providing for lost income or resources.

This did two things. It provided for needs in a society in which there was no government assistance. More significantly, it gave a visible demonstration of a better Kingdom. It showed that Christ was able to create one new community, one new people, out of men and women from many different racial and social backgrounds.

The core issue is that dependence on human justice, presided over by people of conflicting worldviews, is not going to be our lasting security. It comes down to that tenuous phrase, ‘legal opinion’. It is not an absolute. We recognise that there is no absolute justice outside the infinite wisdom and justice of the Father.

What’s the ultimate answer for life in a fallen world? When every ‘power’ is against us, there may be just one. Do as Jesus did,

‘When they hurled their insults at him, [Jesus] did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to Him who judges justly.’
— 1 Peter 2:23

For Jesus, as we know, it meant a barbaric death. He submerged his ‘human rights’ under the foreknowledge and wisdom of his Father. And isn’t the world blessed as a result?

By |2019-06-09T00:56:57+11:00June 7th, 2019|Australia, Authors, Fairness & Justice, Faith, Freedom|23 Comments

About the Author:

Ray Barnett spent much of the last thirty years working in nations where governments were often brutally opposed to the followers of Jesus. It was a clandestine work of Bible teaching, with the aim of equipping and enabling nationals to reach and teach their own people. He has occasionally spoken at churches and conferences in western countries but has usually kept under the radar. Ray has written three books and numerous articles to encourage people of faith. His career background has been as a copywriter. He and his wife Marilyn live in Queensland. They have three daughters and eight grandchildren.

23 Comments

  1. Steve Kellmeyer June 7, 2019 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    ” If the ruling is that ‘Religious belief cannot be grounds for dismissal’, it will cut both ways.

    It will mean that in Christian school, for example, a teacher with previously undisclosed private beliefs or sexual proclivities or whatever, who begins to champion those views in public, outside the workplace, he or she will not be able to be dismissed.”

    So, you think soccer is a total lifestyle, like religion?
    Religious schools require that those who teach doctrines either directly or circumstantially reflecting their lifestyle and worldview (i.e., religion) must necessarily live those doctrines and beliefs, be consistent in those doctrines and beliefs. Religion revolves around how to live one’s whole life, it revolves around life itself, both physical and spiritual, soul-body.

    What is there in the rules of soccer that make it so like teaching religion? What logical consistency derives from the rules of that game which requires every player to proclaim only a specific, narrow public view of the use of human sex? I am keen to know whether the rules of human sexuality and its proclamation involve the goalkeeper, the defender, the forward? Perhaps

  2. Neil Foster June 7, 2019 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    Hi, thanks for your thoughts. I have a few concerns about the view being put forward here, though. There is a big difference between an employee of a secular organisation being penalised for their religiously based views expressed on social media, and someone who works for a religious organisation which takes its religious ethos seriously. Rugby Australia and a local Christian school are two quite different entities, and the law is perfectly capable of distinguishing these situations. In fact, the Fair Work Act 2009 (which is what Israel Folau seems to be using) already distinguishes these situations. After s 772(1), which forbids termination of employment on religious grounds, we find s 772(2) which reads:
    “(2) However, subsection (1) does not prevent a matter referred to in paragraph (1)(f) from being a reason for terminating a person’s employment if:

    (a) the reason is based on the inherent requirements of the particular position concerned; or

    (b) if the person is a member of the staff of an institution that is conducted in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of a particular religion or creed–the employment is terminated:

    (i) in good faith; and

    (ii) to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of that religion or creed.”

    So the FWA already recognises that where holding a particular view would be an “inherent requirement” or where a teacher in a Christian school would be undermining the beliefs of their organisation by opposing Christian teachings, there may be a good ground for dismissal.
    Part of the debate around Mr Folau is whether it is indeed an “inherent” requirement of a job playing professional rugby that you not mention the Bible’s view on homosexual activity. I do not think it should be, and I do not think a general promise not to “discriminate” should be interpreted that way. But it is perfectly possible for the law to be nuanced here about the role an employee has, and the type of organisation they work for.
    Neil Foster

    • Stephen Wilson June 9, 2019 at 2:00 pm - Reply

      Neil, thank you for your response to Ray it is very helpful. I would add we do need Commonwealth legislation to cover the field and free people of faith from the tyranny of Sate based tribunals which are often not well equipped to apply carve outs for religious freedom. I believe you have written about the the Coshott case, which points to our Courts not being well equipped to deal with matters of faith and doctrinal position.
      Sadly our profession is often led by biblically illiterate persons witness the law society and bar association issuing a statement supporting “equal marriage” without member consultation and contrary to the international deflation of Human Rights supporting the right of a man and a woman to marry.

  3. John Mathai June 8, 2019 at 4:28 am - Reply

    When we split issues than what happens is that some issues go against the main issue. A wholistic approach enables rather than disable a person. What has religion got to do with playing football? It becomes an issue only because of splitting. This happens in all areas of life like religion has to be separated from government. The principle of divide and rule. A wholistic approach will enable one to see that life is more than the sum of its parts. Take God out of life and we become parts rather than whole. Therefore this kind of idiotic situation continues to plague us.

  4. Elizabeth June 8, 2019 at 7:00 am - Reply

    My thoughts lean towards the ridiculous notion that RA is only upset about Folau’s post because of the reference to the gay lifestyle. How utterly dumb to take it out of context! Drunkards, adulterers etc were included but only the gays are worth defending in their point of view. Biased becsuse one sponsor has a fervent passion to try to normalise his depraved lifestyle. Shame on Qantas, and shame on Peter Beattie for not standing up to the truth!

  5. Marion Dingwall June 8, 2019 at 10:10 am - Reply

    I appreciate the comments and worth considering. Do we need freedom of speech, rather than freedom of religion?

  6. Michael June 8, 2019 at 11:42 am - Reply

    If a Christian was sacked from a gay activist organisation or a person against Christian teaching sacked from a Christian school it seems clearly distinguishable from a Christian sacked from participation in Rugby or someone sacked from basketball for being gay.

    Folau is entitled to legal protection but yes any extension of protection by legislative change needs to be approached cautiously.

  7. Alyse June 8, 2019 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    Please be careful “ free speech” would seam to be worse, then wouldn’t anyone be allowed to say anything even hate speech? Freedom of religion is the better term.
    Cheers. Keep praying and seeking an outpouring of the Holy Spirit for with it will come revelation of our desperate need for ABBA Father and His righteousness, everywhere. Cheers
    Alyse

  8. Harmony June 8, 2019 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the warning. This is not how we were raised! You stand up for injustice no matter the consequences, that what all the great faiths have preached for thousands of years. If we don’t stand up for Izzy now we, Christians, make him the Fall Guy.

    Personally I think we should support Izzy, it’s not his fault, someone has inveigled him to say these things, he’s a rugby player not a philosopher/theologian. What he has said offends against justice, morality and good taste, there is nothing of humanity in what he says. But mostly what he says, that homosexuals are going to hell, for a condition they can do nothing about, offends against God, it offends against the third commandment; He is taking God’s name in vain.

    • David June 9, 2019 at 10:11 pm - Reply

      Sorry Harmony, the Bibles teaching on the matter of not following Gods law (whichever particular law you want to focus on) has always been the same since the Old testement days.
      So exactly what is saying incorrectly?
      We ll have fallen short of Gods Law, its just a question of forgiveness.
      And yes, I know may homosexuals, some choose to continue their current lifestyle and some choose to obtain.

  9. ROBBIE (ROBYN) HANDCOCK June 8, 2019 at 9:28 pm - Reply

    Thank you Ray, for helping me see more than met my eye so far. I will be sharing some of your thoughts with my Radio audience in the Nambucca Valley.

  10. Judith Nightingale June 9, 2019 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    This is a timely warning. The double edged sword: Yes, we need to stand in support of our brother in Christ; however, we do need to ensure that the wording of any religious freedom legislation will ensure that the integrity of religious institutions is protected.

  11. Naisa Cama Toko June 10, 2019 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    ARU and IZZY are at the mercy of the Sponsor…who pressed long and hard for this case…A very sad case as there is a biblical text reference which also included drunkards, adulterers…,etc…not only gays….I suppose the sponsor had very strong feelings about the player’s post…And thus the pressure on ARU….The ARU Board had to make the choice….ensure that it does not have any problems with the sponsor….or act in faith and have the stance that if sponsor backs out, they will find another sponsor….If it were the All Blacks, sponsor may take it easy…but since Australia is not doing well, it has to go with the sponsor for survival…If the Qantas was not gay but was an adulterer, he may have taken it easy….if he was a drunkard, he may ha not influenced the decision…..If Australia wins the World Cup, then Qantas stands to gain….Living a deprayed lifestyle can corrupt the good character of society…..Being a leader, one has to live a life that is upright and fullfill the virtues of God…ARU has to make the call of whether to stand on God’s words or follow the vicious demands of this world….In the lomg run, society has to make a stance on which pathe their children will follow….To stand on the truth of God’s words or to give in to the pressures of this world. Only time will tell the fruits of today’s decision…Only time will tell on the impact of ARU’s decision on its achievement for this upcoming World Cup…I challenge everyone reading this article to revisit this article after the World Cup and assess how God has given the ultimate prize for disobediance to God’s Words…In the long run, ARU will not escape God;s wrath….it will haunt them forever unless decision makers turn back to God’s truth….Upcomimg nations like Pacific Island countries need to continue to stand for the truth of God’s words….God will elevate them in due time…10 years down the lane, this articlewillerevisited to reflect on the consequences of decisions made against biblical Principles…..Who knows…an upset in the first pool game against Fiji may just be the perfect start to the unleashing of God’s wrath?…..Only timewill tell….

  12. Margaret Gibbson June 12, 2019 at 11:34 pm - Reply

    I have heard many times over the years people who have applied for employment and get a standard reply along the lines of ” sorry we are unable to give you a position at this time”. People who felt they were perfect for the job they missed out on sometimes asked for more ineformation to help them with their next job application and received no response.Is there any legal obligation for an employer to answer and if there isn’t then someone could be rejected by a religious group without saying why their application was refused as happens now.

  13. Brent Melville June 13, 2019 at 6:51 am - Reply

    I would suggest that religious freedom, as referenced in Section 116 of the Constitution, gives churches and other religious organisations the right to operate without unreasonable government restriction. If a church or Christian school had an employee’s errant behaviour issue to deal with it could easily be within the confines of generally accepted Christian practice for discipline to be exercised. Freedom of religion is stated unequivocally in our Constitution: “Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion.” “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.” It needs to be underlined by supporting federal legislation in order to make it more clearly enforceable in the states i.e. to force the states into compliance through Section 109: “When a law of a State is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth, the latter shall prevail, and the former shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be invalid.”

  14. Ray Barnett June 13, 2019 at 7:55 am - Reply

    My sincere thanks to all who have made contributions to our thinking on this issue. I especially appreciate clarifications of the law. There is a valid case in support of our brother who has been so unjustly dealt with. I am grateful to Senator Abetz and any who have taken up the case. A win, however, will not see the opponents of religious freedom roll over in quiet acquiescence. If recent history is a guide, they will only redouble their efforts to destroy anything that might slow the march of the neo-Marxist agenda. This will include the attempted dismantling of any exceptions for religious institutions or organisations, as is already evident in some media posts and policy statements. So we need to be prepared. At this stage, the law gives us some refuge. But not law is not the final refuge.The law can change—and does change—but our final Refuge cannot and will not change. Our necessary position is to trust in Him irrespective of the outcomes of legal wrangles and political manoeuvring. For America, ‘In God We Trust’ is a cliched phrase on coins. For us, as the Body, it must become an unwavering, indestructible reality.
    Ray Barnett

  15. Carmel hoppe June 14, 2019 at 9:27 am - Reply

    I agree with Elizabeth June the 8. It does not matter whether it be in ones normal life or in football .. some say what has it got to do with football ? It has everything to do with football and any other sport or interest in life… it is how we live our life and the goodness, fairness and the truth that Christianity gives in all things and in all walks of life..those who are offended are those who do not read and follow Christ’s teachings.. Israel was one of the greatest players, and still is, who was a great example to his team and football and it is a tragedy that Qantas’s CEO could not cope with the truth because of his style, and held it over the football association. If you don’t sack him we will take our support away from the assn. Israel did nothing wrong..we all answer questions that are asked of us on social media and he had every right to do so in his own time on his own tablet or phone. The media, Qantas and the assn. have made it what it is and shame on all three.

  16. Maggie Baker June 15, 2019 at 10:01 am - Reply

    Thank you Ray and to everyone for your comments. I feel for Israel Folau. I also feel for the people he publically vilified. I keep asking myself, ‘why would a person in his position defy three warnings and a hefty fine to put his $4million contract at risk?’ Arrogance? Another agenda? Perhaps he was sincere. If so, he was very naive, Surely Folau and others with a public profile, must appreciate their public responsibilities that come with the position. Further, their employee contracts do not pay for them to publicly vilify people. The vilification laws are there to protect everyone, including Folau and his religiosity, and others who differ. Further, there isn’t an employee contract in the land that does not include consequences for bringing the employer into disrepute. The rule of law works both ways. Further, everyone knows that anything posted on social media is not private. Folau hiwever, could have made his posts private by restricting the audience to those who appear to share his views.. Although the Gay Righrs activists have picked this up, Folau insulted many more. The laws, and contract laws on religious freedom are, as you said Ray, clumsy. However, the legal framework for the ant vilification laws are there to protect everyone in a multicultural, multi- racial, multi gendered society Including Folau, too. This protection is not based on Neo Marxism radical ideology, iIts called, ‘respect’. And it has to work both ways. We must continue, in our legal framework to persue a respectfulness of everyone, and grasp every opportunity, that will bind us together, instead of politicising on those that drive us apart. As a Christian and a humanist, I find this case both troublesome and seriously worrying. But I have faith, that we can work through this providing everyone involved acts in good faith.

    • Warwick Marsh June 15, 2019 at 5:29 pm - Reply

      Dear Maggie. I feel your comments show you have completely missed the mark. Israel Folau was not vilifying anyone he was simply repeating a verse from the bible. If talking about Hell is vilification that means you should put Jesus Christ in court!

      Billy Graham the greatest evangelist of the twentieth century said, “Jesus did talk about the reality of hell — in fact, He talked about it more than any other person in the Bible. He warned, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

      Did He say this simply to scare us? The reality of hell should frighten us, because not one word in the Bible about hell would ever make you want to go there — not if you take it seriously. The Bible speaks of hell as a place of absolute loneliness and despair and hopelessness. It calls it a place of “darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13).

      But Jesus didn’t talk about hell just to scare us. He talked about it instead because He wanted us to know that God has provided a way of escape! Listen: God doesn’t want you to be separated from Him forever. He loves you, and He wants you to spend eternity with Him in heaven. Unlike hell, heaven is a place of joy and peace and freedom from all the fears and pains of this world. Who wouldn’t want to go there?

      Don’t gamble with your soul, and don’t turn your back on Jesus. Instead, by faith turn to Christ and commit your life to Him. He alone gives us hope — hope for today, and hope for eternity.”

  17. Ray Barnett June 18, 2019 at 8:15 am - Reply

    Thank you for your comments Margaret. You have touched on some important points. I don’t quite stand with you in seeing vilification in what Folau did because that implies an intention I don’t think he had. Let’s accept his later indications that his motivation was genuine, loving concern. Israel expressed his understanding of eternal destiny; as he saw it, he was on as a rescue mission. But let’s also understand that people ‘hear’ new information through the filter of information they already have. So trying to alter people’s thinking or behaviour through brief, random sprays in the social media is all but impossible. To think otherwise is, as you say, naïve. What has happened was eminently predictable: Israel Folau has become the subject rather than his intended message of God’s gracious provision. And as ripples in the pond, we are now battling through laws, perceptions, words, religious freedom, work contracts—all manner of complex subjects—rather than discussing what Jesus came to do. Distractions all. As Christians we react adversely to social media sprays that lump us all together as bigots or racists. Why would others react any differently to our mass social media communications? I would imagine we are glad that Jesus, on reaching Samaria, began with one woman, gently and lovingly leading her thinking. Through her he then reached the entire village. What might have been the case had he stood in the centre of the village and shouted about adultery? In closing, your gentle and poignant response is indicative of the fact that we still have the capacity to discuss. Thank you.

  18. Robert Barrett June 18, 2019 at 9:12 am - Reply

    I understand that Mr Folau was dismissed following a meeting of the board of the organization employing him. There is no report of a meeting between both parties to present evidence and argument from both sides. It appears to be a unilateral decision to cancel the contract without a hearing. The matter of the statement cannot be considered unless both parties are together and then consideration of the facts has taken place. Until a considered opinion is issued then the dismissal was a kangaroo court action. After such a hearing then the matter of a 2000 year old statement can be considered and discussed on the entire statement rather than a small portion taken out of context. Let those without offence in any part of the statement be the judges, unfortunately I am guilty so excluded from the jury.

  19. Frank June 29, 2019 at 11:47 pm - Reply

    Born that way ???
    how come only homosexuals can claim that?
    what about murderers and adulterers and Liars and all the rest of them?

  20. […] prayers that God will be bring glory to His Name in all this. We can also pray that there will be freedom to share God’s word with others, that we will be free to teach our children around the kitchen […]

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