The French rugby team Catalans Dragons has signed Israel Folau, who was canned by Rugby Australian after remarks on social media that “Hell awaits all homosexuals” (among other anti-LGTBQ statements) to a one-year contract.
The Dragons organization said it wanted to give Folau a “new opportunity to shine.”
The move has inspired outrage in rugby circles, The Guardian reports: “This deep-rooted concern is echoed by many within rugby league, who fear the arrival of Folau could cause significant PR damage for the sport. Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) made it abundantly clear in the wake of Folau’s dismissal by Rugby Australia that he would not be registered in their competition moving forward – but the RFL instead have opted not to block the signature.”
In April, Rugby Australia said it was terminating Folau’s contract after the player posted a meme to Instagram that said Hell awaits all homosexuals. Folau challenged the firing and the “code of conduct” panel was assembled.
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 _______________
Said Rugby Australia at the time: “Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Rugby Union have made repeated attempts to contact Israel both directly and via his representatives since 6.30pm on Wednesday, and at this point he has failed to communicate directly with either organisation. Whilst Israel is entitled to his religious beliefs, the way in which he has expressed these beliefs is inconsistent with the values of the sport. We want to make it clear that he does not speak for the game with his recent social media posts.”
Said Folau in his GoFundMe message: “I believe that sharing the Bible is an act of love and compassion. I know some people do not like or believe in the Bible. Indeed, what makes our country so wonderful is that we have such a diverse community made up of so many different cultures and values. But my faith defines me as a person. I do not believe that it is fair or right that I be punished for my religious beliefs. Sadly, after I uploaded the messages from the Bible, my employers, Rugby Australia and Rugby NSW, tore up my employment contract. As a result, I have lost my job, my livelihood, and the ability to play for my country. It looks like I will never be allowed to play rugby in this country again.”
You may recall that Folau was nearly expelled from the sport in 2018 after a series of similar homophobic actions.
Folau, a devout Christian raised as a Mormon who converted to the Assemblies of God fellowship with his family in 2011, made headlines in September 2017 during Australia’s debate over same-sex marriage, when he tweeted, “I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. but personally, I will not support gay marriage.”
One year ago in April 2018, Folau replied to a follower in an Instagram post who asked, “what was gods plan for gay people?”
In the comments section of the post, Folau, who plays for New South Wales Waratahs, replied, “HELL.. Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.”
Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Waratahs, for which Folau plays, said they would seek an explanation from Folau and denounced the player.
Rugby Australia declined to punish Folau, though its inclusion policy states: “Rugby has and must continue to be a sport where players, officials, volunteers, supporters and administrators have the right and freedom to participate regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or religion and without fear of exclusion. There is no place for homophobia or any form of discrimination in our game and our actions and words both on and off the field must reflect this.”
Then, one month after coming under scrutiny, Folau tweeted an anti-gay video.
The video featured a sermon by evangelical preacher David Wilkerson and footage of a Pride march where Christian street preachers were being protested, and a clip of the White House lit in rainbow colors against narration that said, “Now is the time to get right with God because this generation has lost the fear of God. There’s no fear of God left in the land.”
Late in 2019, Folau blamed deadly Australian bushfires on gay marriage.
Said Folau, according to The Telegraph: “In Australia, this past couple of weeks, with all the natural disasters, the bushfires and the droughts. God’s word says for a man and a woman to be together, one man and one woman in the covenant of marriage to be together. Abortion, it’s OK now to murder, kill infants, unborn children. Look how rapid these bushfires, these droughts, all these things have come in a short period of time. Do you think it’s a coincidence or not? God is speaking to you guys. Australia you need to repent and take these laws and turn it back to what is right by God.”
Folau also said he’d rather walk away from rugby than defy the Bible.
In December, 2019, released a statement following a settlement with Rugby Australia.
The New Zealand Herald reported: “The 30-year-old was after $14 million in compensation for wrongful termination after RA sacked him for a code of conduct breach when he said on Instagram earlier this year “hell awaits” gay people. RA was determined to hold its ground as mediation ordered by the Federal Circuit Court began this week and a marathon 12-hour session on Monday failed to yield a result as both sides remained at loggerheads. However, on Wednesday afternoon, Folau and RA released a joint statement saying they had reached an agreement, settling for a confidential amount.”
A ridiculous and frankly unbelievable joint statement released by Folau and Rugby Australia read: “Mr Folau wants all Australians to know that he does not condone discrimination of any kind against any person on the grounds of their sexuality and that he shares Rugby Australia’s commitment to inclusiveness and diversity.”