No hypocrisy to see here

Free speech is dead, hello George Orwell’s 1984.

Folau hit with high-level code breach

Israel Folau has been found guilty of a high-level breach of his contract with Rugby Australia, with a code of conduct tribunal now to decide what punishment he faces.

The finding is ominous for the three-time John Eales Medallist because only a high-level breach enables Rugby Australia to terminate his contract.

Folau’s career now teeters on the brink of ruin. The question is whether Rugby Australia will consider how this issue has polarised its fan base and indeed a large percentage of the Australian public.

The best punishment Folau can hope for is a suspension and/or a fine. He also has the right of appeal, a process that would involve a completely new three-person panel being selected.

The panel of chairman John West QC, Kate Eastman SC and John Boultbee handed down its finding late today.

It will now take written submissions from Rugby Australia and Folau before determining what sanction to impose.

The hearing had considered what level of breach — if any — Folau had committed by posting social media comments last month stating that homosexuals and others the Bible described as sinners were bound for hell unless they turned to God for repentance.

It is not known how long the panel will take to consider what level of sanction to impose but the last time a code of conduct tribunal arrived at this stage of proceedings, having found a player guilty of a high-level breach, it didn’t end as Rugby Australia expected.

Kurtley Beale was fined $45,000 in 2014 for sending a pornographic image to a female employee of the then Australian Rugby Union — an incident that led to Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie walking out on the job.

At the time, Rugby Australia had been prepared to tear up Beale’s contract.

The significant difference was that Beale’s teammates were still prepared to play with him. Whether the same can be said of Folau, especially after he was formally warned 12 months ago against doing precisely as he did, is problematic.

Should he be sacked, Folau would be the first Australian athlete dismissed for expressing fundamental religious beliefs.

Even before the case potentially reaches the courts, it has developed into one of the most drawn-out legal stoushes in Australian sporting history.

The hearing stretched for 22 hours over three days. As well as the extraordinary length of the hearing, the cost of the case is also mounting. The two parties are thought to have paid an estimated $300,000 in legal bills since Saturday alone.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has stated that he can’t see how Folau can play for Australia again and a number of senior players, including halfback Will Genia and five-eighth Bernard Foley, have indicated they could have difficulties playing with him again.

Rugby Australia will need to take into account the statement of leading Pasifika player Samu Kerevi, that he didn’t want anyone “terminated”. Wallabies and Queensland prop Taniela Tupou also insisted that a player’s religion had nothing to do with rugby and if the plan was to terminate Folau’s contract, then Rugby Australia might as well “sack us all” because just about all Pacific Islands players felt the same way.

If Folau’s contract is terminated, he could launch action for religious­ discrimination under section 722 of the Fair Work Act, according to lawyer Mark Fowler. “However, it is a quirk of the act that the same claim is not available to him where he is issued with a lesser form of sanction,” he added.

Israel Folau leaves after a code of conduct hearing in Sydney. Picture: AFP
Israel Folau leaves after a code of conduct hearing in Sydney. Picture: AFP

You and I are not good enough to play rugby for Australia. Israel Folau is.

But Israel would say he is not good enough to write this column; so I am privileged to write for you and for him. To the millions, who, through my columns have supported Israel, may I offer you some consolation. I told him when this ludicrous, almost laughable, decision was handed down on Tuesday, that he was in breach of something — I told him to hold his head high, that millions of Australians were proud of him.

He said to me, his exact words: “I am at peace mate. My head is held high. No worries.”

This is a measure of the profound extent of his Christian faith. It is only God to whom he believes he must answer. But his capacity to rise effortlessly above this adversity will never dilute the anger that millions of Australians, and rugby diehards, feel.

MORE: Joyce breaks silence on Folau; Exclusive — What happened inside Folau’s hearing

In response to my recent writings, there have been almost three million “views” of what has been written. More importantly, tens of thousands of comments.

Paul: “Joyce and Qantas are there to fly planes and Castle and RA are there to win games. Simple. But the Qantas board has lost control of our airline and Castle has led RA into an unnecessary fight that they cannot win regardless of the outcome. What a mess! And this is nothing compared with what the Left and the PC brigade have in store for us all. Blind outrage and confected offence over nothing.”

Peter: “Very well put. It’s a sad day when the hysterical voices of a few can so effectively exclude a man of such integrity from the game for simply voicing his beliefs. Rugby Australia and its minions are practising hypocrisy and ineptitude while they destroy the game they play in heaven.”

Jeffrey: “I cannot believe it has come to this. That an Australian captain has refused to play with our only true international star because he quoted from the Bible. We, the silent majority, should not allow this farce to continue. I was once described by a former Australian captain as the ‘biggest rugby tragic’ that he had met. But I will never attend another match, nor even watch on TV if Israel is sacked …”

KC: “If anyone can express their views, why can’t Folau? He’s merely quoting the Bible. He is not forcing the quotation on anyone. Anyone can choose to read it or ignore it. Please let him be. Is it now a crime to quote the bible?”

Gary: “Never thought I’d say this. Alan Jones is spot on. His summation of both Israel Folau’s expression of Christian beliefs and of Rugby Australia’s disconnection with its followers is so close to my beliefs and that of my circle of friends, it amazes me. Primarily because Jones’ views are often diverse from my own. RA, you’ve stuffed this up royally because you have no principles and you bend to what PC dictates or, worse, what sponsors dictate. Shame.”

Gray: “If Rugby Australia want to survive, it can listen to you or it can listen to that person who advised Michael Daley!”

Therein lies the Chernobyl-like disaster that is Rugby Australia.

Israel’s “crime” cannot be repeated often enough. Israel believes, as millions have believed for thousands of years, that sinners go to hell. So says the Bible. But a gentler individual than Israel Folau you could not meet. He loves the sinner but he condemns the sin. Yet for his beliefs and his Christianity, he faces this Orwellian punishment — he’s had his dignity, his integrity, his employment, his vocation and his income stolen from him, for quoting from the Bible, the same Bible on which the Prime Minister of Australia is sworn into office.

As Mark Latham said two days ago: “How did our state and our nation ever come to this … no Australian should live in fear of the words they utter. No Australian should be fearful of proclaiming four of the most glorious words of our civilisation — I am a Christian.”

Make no mistake, the rugby administration has poked the bear of the silent majority. Israel has not been found guilty by a court of the land but rather by a tin-pot outfit appointed by RA. The cancer at the centre of the game continues to grow. But the cancer will not kill us. It is the cancer that will be removed, not Israel Folau.

Our nation of Christians and non-Christians is in awe of a young man who, in his time away from his job playing footy, is a preacher at his community church and unashamedly quotes from his Bible. Israel has become a metaphor for modern Australia.

He is an unlikely candidate, but he now battles for all Australians.

There is a federal election on.

In the very same week, the Labor Party has said it wants to strengthen section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which makes it illegal to insult, offend, or humiliate.

The Labor Party wants to “beef-up the activities of the Human Rights Commission”. So, if there is a change of government, statements of belief, like those of Israel Folau, which were, after all, only online posts — would become illegal rather than controversial.

All around the world, Christians are being persecuted for their faith. Their houses of worship are being destroyed. Their Bible is being banned. Their right to exercise religious freedom is denied. Many are imprisoned or murdered.

And now, here at home, a young man is under threat for sharing biblical verses.

In a gentle and uncomplaining way he said to me this week, in my home: “Alan, I don’t understand. What have I done?”

I told Israel his crime was apparently to have the courage to have faith and for that, I was proud of him.

As Jennifer Oriel wrote in this paper last week: “To my knowledge, there is no equivalent case of an employer firing a worker for quoting the Koran, the Torah, or the Communist Manifesto on social media. Christians, it seems, are the PC Establishment’s favourite prey.”

Well, Jennifer is not entirely correct. For PC establishment, read rugby establishment.

It can accommodate players who are arrested, players guilty of drug-taking and players who are violent. But not someone who dares to quote the Bible.

And that’s why the rugby family, players frightened to speak out for fear they will cop the same treatment, volunteers who love their game and walk through the turnstiles to see Israel leap majestically and athletically in the air, young boys shaking their heads in wonder as to how their idol can be chopped off at the knees for expressing his faith in an often faithless world — all are outraged.

A message has been sent.

A society in which people are not free to think or to disagree or to debate or to challenge the accepted view without fear or reprisal, such a society is unsafe.

And this all began in a month when the world watched as the Cathedral of Notre Dame burnt, while a firestorm engulfed a gifted young man for articulating everything that is symbolised by the great cathedral.

Israel cited a text that would have been repeated over and over again in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paul’s words to the Church of Corinth, where Paul exhorts his flock not to fall back into the moral and spiritual decadence from which they emerged.

Israel paraphrased Paul’s warning. But we are talking about a man of class, quality and substance who has given his life to Jesus Christ in the knowledge that, “Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him”.

How on Earth this can be paraded as hate speech from a young man without a hateful bone in his body? But of course, we are dealing with professional nincompoops. We are only one step away from banning the Bible and while you’re at it, sack St Paul, one of the founding geniuses of Western civilisation.

What message are we really trying to send to save the hide of a sponsor and the prejudices of an ever-dwindling minority.

Raelene Castle and the board of RA, presiding over the disintegration of this beautiful game that they are meant to prosper, will plainly not cop a devout Polynesian Christian quoting the Bible at them.

Whatever their so-called values are, it’s plain there is no room for Christian values. And whatever their duty might be, it’s plain that it involves the need to punish, ostracise, humiliate and alienate a brilliant athlete in order to defend their phony “values” and placate a valueless sponsor, which just happens to be in a commercial partnership with countries that openly commit atrocities against gay people.

Where Christian schools playing the game and trying to uphold biblical values fit into all of this, the dishonoured God perhaps only knows.

As we watched Notre Dame burn, we were witnessing, at the same time, the ritual burning of a brilliant, courageous and Christian young Australian whose true values are embodied in the cathedral structure that French authorities strove strenuously to protect.

How could anyone, let alone the mind of a malleable, young, rugby lover make any sense of this? They couldn’t.

So, as we saw with the crowd at the Queensland game in Brisbane last Friday night and in the NSW game at Bankwest Stadium the previous Saturday night, the young and the old are walking away from rugby.

It is the only way known to them, to protest the injustice at the treatment of Israel Folau.

The good news is, this isn’t over. Israel will carry his supporters, if need be, to the highest court in the land.

RA should not feel comfortable about the outcome that awaits it there.

One thought on “No hypocrisy to see here”

Comments are closed.