Israel Folau is a star player for the professional Australian rugby team the Wallabies. But he is on the verge of losing his livelihood for posting on social media that sinners will go to Hell unless they turn to Jesus, including a meme paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 that mentions homosexuals.
Besides being a rugby superstar, Folau, an Australian whose parents are from Tonga, is a devout Christian, a leader in his tiny Assemblies of God congregation pastored by his father, whose members seem to be mostly Pacific islanders. In response to a news story that Tasmania will now allow gender changes on birth certificates, he posted on Twitter: “the devil has blindsided so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways”.
He then put this up on Instagram:
View this post on Instagram
Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him. _______________ Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these , adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21 KJV _______________ Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Acts 2:38 KJV _______________ And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Acts 17:30 KJV _______________
His actual words are a standard evangelistic witness, but the meme he includes with it is a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
That it mentions homosexuals as among the sinners who will go to Hell apart from Jesus prompted fury among Australia’s LGBT community. For some reason, drunks, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, and idolaters have showed little reaction.
But the militantly gay CEO of Quantas, one of the Wallabies’ biggest corporate sponsors, demanded that Folau be thrown off the team. Other big businesses canceled Folau’s endorsement contracts. Land Rover even took away his car. Rugby Australia, the governing body of the sport, ruled that he violated the morality clause in his $4 million, four-year contract.
Morality clauses used to be exercised against the transgressions mentioned in the meme. (Not only today is immorality considered moral, morality is now considered immoral!) But the contract includes a provision about treating everyone fairly and with dignity regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, cultural background, or–significantly, in this counter list–religion. Still, Folau has never been accused of mistreating anyone personally, and warning people of what he sees as the danger they are in, rightly or wrongly, and trying to save them from that danger can hardly constitute mistreating those people.
Complicating the league’s desire to fire Folau is that doing so would run counter to Australia’s anti-discrimination laws. Just as it is illegal to sack someone for his or her secular orientation, it is illegal to sack someone for his or her religion.
Secularists tend to assume that religion–like sexual orientation–is a matter of identity. But religion has to do with belief. Surely sacking Folau for posting a Bible verse would be a textbook example of discrimination on the basis of religion.
How the Australian courts would rule is unclear at this point. But reportedly Rugby Australia has offered Folau a settlement of $1 million to get him to opt out of his contract. If he is fired, he gets nothing. But Folau, who says that his faith is far more important than his career, has turned down that offer.
A further complication is that another Rugby star, Taniela Tupou, tweeted, “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 #TYJ.” Indeed, Pacific Islander Rugby players around the world are rallying to Falou’s defense. One-third of Australia’s professional Rugby players are from the islands.
And since the Pacific Islanders are “persons of color” and “indigenous people” who have been oppressed by “white privilege,” they are on the intersectionality scale and it’s awkward for leftists to come down hard against them.
Australians are torn by the controversy. The Australians are as sports-mad as anyone in the world, and the ordinary Aussie hates it that an athlete of Folou’s caliber may be ousted–just a few weeks before the Rugby world cup–and there is sympathy for him being discriminated against for what most Australians were taught in Sunday School back when they cared about Sunday School. Australians too, egalitarians that they are, resent big corporations trying to ruin a man. Some see the issues about religious liberty and freedom of expression and see this as a defining issue against a politically correct culture that has gone too far. But there are also lots of Australians who support the LGBT cause and want to punish anyone who disagrees with it.
I’ll try to report what happens when the case is settled, one way or another.
Finally, note the zeal of the Christians of the developing world, which we have often blogged about (see this and this and this) , which is, once again, challenging Western-style secularism and permissiveness.
HT: Matthew Buck
Photo: Israel Folou via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]