Sacked Wallabies fullback Israel Folau launched legal action on June 6, 2019 against Rugby Australia's decision to dismiss him over homophobic social media posts. Picture: Geoff Caddick
Sacked Wallabies fullback Israel Folau launched legal action on June 6, 2019 against Rugby Australia's decision to dismiss him over homophobic social media posts. Picture: Geoff Caddick

Why 8300 Aussies have pledged to Folau

Supporters who have donated to Israel Folau's controversial GoFundMe campaign say they have contributed because "freedom of speech is under attack and religion prevails" as the fundraiser edges closer towards $700,000.

The devoutly Christian athlete was fired after a tribunal found him guilty of a "high-level" breach of the Rugby Australia code of conduct for posting on social media that "hell awaits" gay people.

He has set up a online fundraiser to support his legal fight against Rugby Australia.

News.com.au approached those who donated to his campaign over the weekend, but none wanted to be identified, citing the "fear of a diatribe of hate and righteousness being thrust upon them by the lefties and extremists".

Another declined to be identified blaming his own workplace's code of conduct.

One donor in Melbourne told news.com.au: "I don't think there's any reason to shine light. Let people donate to him as he serves his people and is being unfairly shamed in public."

Another said supporters of Folau "fear labels such as bigot and homophobic being piled on them, all while simply expressing their opinion or just exercising their democratic right".

"We cannot have a debate nowadays without these labels being thrown at you," the supporter said.

It comes as the Australian Christian Lobby called attacks on Folau a "smear campaign", with managing director Martyn Iles saying he was "very happy to financially support him".

"As Christians, we are supposed to stand with those of the household of faith who encounter various difficulties and trials," he wrote on Facebook.

Mr Iles described the situation as a "calculated and deliberate attempt to slime Israel Folau".

"It is unjust, and it threatens to set a precedent which could bring about the same injustice upon many employees, professionals, and others in the Australian community," he said.

"He did no wrong, but he is being punished as a wrongdoer."

Mr Iles said the situation had been "very hard on Israel for a host of reasons, and the media continue to attack both him and his wife with false information".

 

 

Folau had his $4 million Rugby Australia contract terminated in May. By noon on Sunday, about 8300 people had contributed $635,000 to his "Israel Folau Legal Action Fund".

The spike in donations came despite reports Folau has a property portfolio worth close to $7 million across NSW and Queensland.

"We are all happy to donate. He could have asked for 10 times that and I'd still chip in," said another Sydney donor told news.com.au.

"I donated. Twice. Once for rugby. The second for religious freedom and free speech. I might give again because the Qantas CEO doesn't have the right to get involved," he said, making reference to Alan Joyce, who rubbished claims he was responsible for ordering Folau's sacking.

"(Folau) can do with it what he wants. I'm supporting him. I can send him my money. I trust he will spend it wisely.

"Apparently you can't ask for money if you have money and you must be terminally ill to be on GoFundMe. That's probably more concerning if you ask me."

Despite Folau's decision prompting a sharp backlash, supporters say people "need to back off and leave the guy alone" and that the decision to donate may not be due to Folau's views against homosexuality, but "donating for themselves".

"It's a sign that a lot of people don't support the decisions that Rugby Australia made, not necessarily support his religious views but support his religious freedom," one donor said.

"You cannot contract out common law rights. Freedom of speech and religion are common law rights," said another.

One person told news.com.au the fight "wasn't all about Izzy" and that "not all who are donating share his beliefs or agree with all that he says.

"Free speech is important and people may want to use their own hard-earned money to support the case to uphold that right for all Australians," one donor said.

"A lot of us are getting sick of the leftist outrage mob, and will donate to see Rugby Australia pay for their dumb, intolerant decision."

The former Wallaby thanked donors on Saturday for contributing to his legal fight against Rugby Australia, doubling down on his intention to use the funds despite public outcry, AAP reported.

He said he was "unsurprised" by criticism from Rugby Australia and media personalities regarding his decision to establish the GoFundMe page.

Folau is requesting donations despite a reported $7 million property portfolio and the recent sale of a $500,000 Lamborghini.

"The public is free to help fund his fight," another donor argued.

"You don't have to agree with what he's saying, but in a free society people should be able to express their opinion without fear of reprisal. I think you'll find most people reject totalitarianism."

Folau has launched legal proceedings with the Fair Work Commission against Rugby Australia and is seeking up to $10 million in damages.

The case could be a landmark test of religious freedoms in Australia. Rugby Australia was less than impressed by Folau's attempt to solicit donations online.

"From our perspective (GoFundMe) is a place where sick children get support, so it's certainly not a strategy we think is appropriate," Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle told Nine News on Friday.

Matt Young is news.com.au's weekend editor. Continue the conversation @MattYoung


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