An open letter to Israel Folau

Image Source: The New Daily

By Giorgina McKay | @ggmckay11

Dear Mr Folau,

It has come to the world’s attention that you not only have a lack of respect for the LGBTQIA+ community, but for the terms of agreement everyone must follow in the workplace.

While your contract doesn’t specifically contain a social media clause, it does state that players must “use social media appropriately”, which includes “any public comment that would likely be detrimental to the best interests, image, and welfare of the game”.

Furthermore, clauses in Rugby Australia’s players code of conduct ask players to “treat everyone equally, fairly, and with dignity regardless of gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, cultural or religious background, age or disability”.

If these guidelines weren’t enough to inform you that any anti-gay comments or content would not be tolerated by Rugby Australia, then the public warning you were given by its chief executive Raelene Castle last year should have been.

Instead, you thought you could play with fire, believing your monetary worth and prominent fan following would keep you safe.

But it didn’t, and now you’ve been burnt, you’re claiming that your contract termination is an attack on freedom of religious expression.

This is untrue for many reasons, but most of all, it’s untrue because Australia is a country that prides itself on protecting individual’s religious freedom.

In fact, Australia’s Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act (1986) specifically outlines the religious freedoms all Australians are entitled to under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) (ICCPR).

“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion,” Article 18 of the Act states.

This right shall include freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, and teaching.

“Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.”

While this has not always worked in favour of other religious groups, such as Muslims, Buddhists, and Sikhs, it most definitely has in the case of Christians.  

So to state that this is a fight for religious freedom is pompous.

Another thing that’s pompous is your decision to open a GoFundMe page, requesting $3 million in donations for your legal battle that you pursued after you breached the terms and conditions imposed by Rugby Australia.  

This is rich (pun intended) given that before your contract was terminated, you were earning a salary of $1 million, and currently, you have a property portfolio worth more than $7 million.

Not to mention, according to Google your estimated networth is at $6 million.

However, the issue I have with your decision to fundraise your own legal costs – mind you, with no guarantee this is where the money would have been spent – but rather with your choice of website.

GoFundMe’s purpose is to help raise money for communities and families in need, for much needed research, and for patients suffering from illness or disease.

It’s designed for young fighters like Henry or Ella, both of whom are not only in the midst of a difficult health battle, but in a tough financial situation too.

So I can’t say that I’m sorry your page got taken down, but I can definitely say that your decision to instate it in the first place was an act of greed and something I’m sure your God would not look highly on.

Lastly, I am appalled that you believe your page’s termination is discrimination.

Discrimination as defined by the Australian Human Rights Commission is what “happens when a person, or a group of people, is treated less favourably than another person or group because of their background or certain personal characteristics”.

And Christians like yourself just don’t fit that description.

But do you know who does?the LGBTQIA+ community.

According to statistics by the National LGBTI Health Alliance, LGBTI+ people aged 16 and over are nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed with depression in their lifetime.

In addition, LGBTI+ young people aged 16 to 27 are five times more likely to commit suicide; for transgender people aged 18 and over its double that.

The Australian Human Rights Commission also reportedthat 6 in 10 LGBTQIA+ people have experienced verbal homophobic abuse, with 2 in 10 experiencing it physically.

Mr Folau, the type of language you use and the preachings you share have a direct impact on LGBTQIA+ Australians.

Not only are you contributing to these figures by spreading your anti-gay message, you are encouraging others to do the same.

This debate isn’t about freedom of speech or freedom of religion, it’s about minimizing and condemning the use of hate speech, and teaching people the importance of abiding by the rules no matter how good an athlete or how prominent of a public figure you are.

So Mr Folau, please kindly get off your high horse, and focus on more important matters.

 

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