Rugby Australia and Israel Folau have come to an agreement. The terms of the settlement remain confidential but both parties have released a joint statement in which Folau affirms he never intended to offend anyone and where Rugby Australia apologises to Folau.
Not everyone is satisfied. Lawyers are expressing their preference to see the case played out in court for the sake of clarifying where Australian Law sits. Other Aussies are disappointed because the case has ended in ex-communication rather than social execution.
Not everyone is satisfied. Lawyers are expressing their preference to see the case played out in court, not necessarily because of prejudice against either party but for the sake of clarifying where Australian Law sits in regard to religious freedom. Other Aussies are disappointed because the case has ended in ex-communication for Folau rather than social execution. For 18 months, Peter FitzSimons has used his privileged place in the Australian media to cheer-on the sacking of Israel Folau—not the only voice, of course, but the loudest and most consistent. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, FitzSimons has expressed his disappointment over the final outcome and has tried to type out the final word on the Israel Folau saga:
From the point of view of resolving the many issues raised, however—and more particularly, holding Folau to account for his damaging actions—it is singularly dissatisfying.
As one who has followed the issues closely since Folau first disgraced himself by putting up a post endorsing the view that gays are destined for hell, and who has written and ranted about it extensively, I am more aware than most of the damage he has done, the hurt he has caused. In the 21st century, his homophobic gibberish—you heard me—simply has no place. And it is no excuse that the gibberish in question is sourced from the Bible. I was hoping the court would confirm that, hence the dissatisfaction.
It was for that reason my first reaction on hearing the news—and I write in the first few minutes thereafter—was the settlement was, firstly, a great pity. Secondly, my stronger reaction was I hoped RA kept the presumed payment to him to an absolute minimum.
FitzSimons has been quick to call out rumours on social media that suggest the size of the settlement, and yet here he is, acting as a judicial speculator,
[I] have no inside knowledge of the terms, not even a hint, but my bet is it will be about $200,000 to $300,000 … Any sum more than that and I hope RA would have said, “bring it on, we’ll see you in court.
Finally, he writes,
Goodbye, Israel. You will be remembered as a greatly gifted player, who was nevertheless a disaster for rugby. The day you severed the final strands of your relationship with Rugby Australia was a good day for the game.
Good day to you, I said good day.
FitzSimons can posture all he likes, but this is far from over. The “Rugby Australia and Israel Folau” page may have been turned, but the dispute over religious freedom in Australia is only just beginning.
Peter FitzSimons may not speak for all Australians—probably not for the mainstream, anyway—but he does represent a group of self-appointed moral arbiters who have a significant public and influential voice. And he has made it clear that believing and publicly affirming the Bible’s teaching on sexuality amounts to phobia and “gibberish” and it has no place in Australia today. Again:
In the 21st century, his homophobic gibberish—you heard me—simply has no place. And it is no excuse that the gibberish in question is sourced from the Bible.
Back in July, Rugby Australia’s CEO, Raelene Castle, admitted that had Israel Folau only quoted Bible verses, that would be sufficient grounds to have him sacked. The Folau case was never really about contract law. This was always a case of cultural signalling, with Rugby Australia proving its wokeness to the world. Regardless of what one thinks about Folau’s post, he dared break the new moral code that is being pressed upon Australians: do not question the new sexual narrative. We are expected to fully subscribe to the new sexuality paradigm, and failure to do so calls for a public cancelling and shaming. There are countless examples of this appearing all over the country: Margaret Court; the Coopers Beer pile-on; legislative moves by the Victorian Government and more. Right now, the Victorian government is pushing to ban conversion practices with the parameters set so broadly that it may amount to a ban on teaching and praying about these matters.
Peter FitzSimons exemplifies a broad cultural ignorance concerning the Christian Gospel which declares that God disagrees with us yet loves us. God’s disapproval of human attitudes and actions isn’t an example of phobia—neither is Christian disagreement with the current sexual narrative. Peter FitzSimons is perpetuating the myth that the only good Christian is the Christian who embraces the latest fashions of secular morality. It’s illogical but he is not entirely to blame. Progressive Christians have been selling-out and cosying-up to our society’s culture-club for years. Bible-believing Christians need to work harder at countering such fake gospelling … in a gracious manner that confirms the gospel.
Like I said, the final word on religious freedom in Australia hasn’t been spoken.
The Federal Government’s religious discrimination Bill has recently returned to the drawing board, following criticisms from both religious and non-religious groups. When it comes to religious freedom, Australian law remains unwritten.
Part of the reason behind this legal mess is because Australian law was not framed to deal with its culture turning against the very belief system which provided its societal and legal foundations. How do we remove Christianity without destroying the very fabric upon which our culture depends? As in a game of Jenga, you can only remove so many blocks before the entire structure starts to come crashing down.
Christians would be fools to bag their hopes in any future law. The law ought to function for the common good of all society (not only for Christians). The law should exist as a friend to its citizens by protecting freedoms. Instead we have become the dog chasing its own tail: we allege freedom and toleration by eating away at freedom and toleration.
The law ought to function for the common good of all society (not only for Christians). The law should exist as a friend to its citizens by protecting freedoms.
Still more importantly, Australians must learn to rediscover the art of civil disagreement. We are fast losing both the cognitive and moral ability to engage with opposing worldview and to live together despite these differences. Social pluralism is being fast replaced by an ugly and authoritarian secularism. We Christians need to grow thicker skin and realise that the culture has set sail. We need to stop that pointless dreaming about a “Christian Australia” which by the way never existed, and we need to stop falling into modern trap of binding our hope to societal structures and systems. We must not give up on kindness, patience, or truth telling, on gentleness, love, or faithfulness. There is no need to play by the rules that Rugby Australia, Peter FitzSimons, and others insist upon. Hell is too awful and heaven too wonderful, and we want to serve our fellow Aussies well by offering a better story.
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realised. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
First published at murraycampbell.net