Folau cashes in as Christian group takes up fundraiser
Sydney - A
Christian group crowdfunded more than A$1 million in a
single day on Tuesday for former Australian star Israel Folau's legal
battle to appeal against his sacking over homophobic comments.
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) stepped in to host Folau's
fundraising appeal after his original online appeal for cash was shut
down over concerns it was discriminatory.
That had attracted widespread criticism, with Australian media noting
he was one of the best-paid players in the world and owned a
multi-million dollar property portfolio.
The ACL website said on Tuesday that by 17:00 Sydney time it had raised A$1.044 million of its A$3 million goal
for Folau's legal battle with former employer Rugby Australia.
The 30-year-old, a devout Christian, was sacked by the governing body last month for posting anti-gay comments on Instagram.
ACL's managing director Martyn Iles said the group also donated
A$100 000 of its own funds towards Folau's cause "because it's right
and it sets an important legal precedent".
"Many Australians want to support Izzy Folau because they feel his
case is their case and they can help make a difference and show him he
is not alone," he tweeted before the appeal went live.
Folau initially set up his appeal on GoFundMe, saying he was standing
up for freedom of speech and religion by fighting his sacking for
posting that "hell awaits" gay people and others he considers sinners.
The appeal had raised more than A$700 000 before GoFundMe pulled it
on Monday, saying the platform would not "tolerate the promotion of
discrimination or exclusion".
Folau was fired last month after a Rugby Australia tribunal found him
guilty of "high-level" misconduct over his social media posts.
He has taken his case to Australia's employment watchdog, the Fair
Work Commission, asserting that he simply posted sentiments from the
The issue has revived debate about the clash between the right to
freedom of religious expression and restrictions on hate speech.
Australia's conservative government, which was re-elected in May, has
vowed to enshrine religious freedom protections in law, while the ACL
was vocal in opposing the introduction of gay marriage laws in 2017.
Folau's legal team and Rugby Australia officials will meet in Sydney on Friday as part of the employment watchdog process.
He is reportedly seeking A$10 million in damages, including for lost sponsorship and marketing opportunities.
Folau was on a four-year contract worth more than A$1 million annually when he was sacked.
Netball New Zealand (NNZ), meanwhile, said it would not be taking
action against Folau's wife, Maria, for supporting his fundraising
Maria Folau, a New Zealand international who plies her trade with
Australia's Adelaide Thunderbirds, flagged his GoFundMe campaign on her
In a brief statement, NNZ said "Maria Folau has not breached NNZ policy".
It added: "We acknowledge that people have differing views and
beliefs. It is important those opinions and views are expressed in
constructive and respectful ways.
Liz Ellis, a former Australian captain, had called for netball authorities to send a strong message over the Folau saga.
"There is no room for homophobia in our game," she tweeted late
"Anyone who is seen to support or endorse homophobia is not