Why 8300 Aussies have pledged to Folau
Supporters who have donated to Israel Folau's controversial GoFundMe campaign say they have contributed because "freedom of speech is under attack and religion prevails" as the fundraiser edges closer towards $700,000.
The devoutly Christian athlete was fired after a tribunal found him guilty of a "high-level" breach of the Rugby Australia code of conduct for posting on social media that "hell awaits" gay people.
He has set up a online fundraiser to support his legal fight against Rugby Australia.
News.com.au approached those who donated to his campaign over the weekend, but none wanted to be identified, citing the "fear of a diatribe of hate and righteousness being thrust upon them by the lefties and extremists".
Another declined to be identified blaming his own workplace's code of conduct.
One donor in Melbourne told news.com.au: "I don't think there's any reason to shine light. Let people donate to him as he serves his people and is being unfairly shamed in public."
Another said supporters of Folau "fear labels such as bigot and homophobic being piled on them, all while simply expressing their opinion or just exercising their democratic right".
"We cannot have a debate nowadays without these labels being thrown at you," the supporter said.
It comes as the Australian Christian Lobby called attacks on Folau a "smear campaign", with managing director Martyn Iles saying he was "very happy to financially support him".
"As Christians, we are supposed to stand with those of the household of faith who encounter various difficulties and trials," he wrote on Facebook.
Mr Iles described the situation as a "calculated and deliberate attempt to slime Israel Folau".
"It is unjust, and it threatens to set a precedent which could bring about the same injustice upon many employees, professionals, and others in the Australian community," he said.
"He did no wrong, but he is being punished as a wrongdoer."
Mr Iles said the situation had been "very hard on Israel for a host of reasons, and the media continue to attack both him and his wife with false information".
Donars obviously think his been wronged, so there you go. Fight for justice!!— jabba (@jabbs444) June 22, 2019
Not a donor but I am guessing that a lot of people are doing it because they’ve been in similar situations with employers? I’ve seen someone on my LinkedIn timeline take his side and I’ve worked out it’s bc they had similar issues (with being outspoken, not with being a bigot).— Marlo Perry (@MarloPerry) June 22, 2019
Folau had his $4 million Rugby Australia contract terminated in May. By noon on Sunday, about 8300 people had contributed $635,000 to his "Israel Folau Legal Action Fund".
The spike in donations came despite reports Folau has a property portfolio worth close to $7 million across NSW and Queensland.
"We are all happy to donate. He could have asked for 10 times that and I'd still chip in," said another Sydney donor told news.com.au.
"I donated. Twice. Once for rugby. The second for religious freedom and free speech. I might give again because the Qantas CEO doesn't have the right to get involved," he said, making reference to Alan Joyce, who rubbished claims he was responsible for ordering Folau's sacking.
"(Folau) can do with it what he wants. I'm supporting him. I can send him my money. I trust he will spend it wisely.
"Apparently you can't ask for money if you have money and you must be terminally ill to be on GoFundMe. That's probably more concerning if you ask me."
They are donating to the free speech cause rather than the person. People realise this is not just Israel’s fight & if they don’t like being told what they can & cant say, I can only imagine that they probably don’t like being told what they can’t do with their money.— Clay Andrew Ryan (@clayandrewryan1) June 22, 2019
Despite Folau's decision prompting a sharp backlash, supporters say people "need to back off and leave the guy alone" and that the decision to donate may not be due to Folau's views against homosexuality, but "donating for themselves".
"It's a sign that a lot of people don't support the decisions that Rugby Australia made, not necessarily support his religious views but support his religious freedom," one donor said.
"You cannot contract out common law rights. Freedom of speech and religion are common law rights," said another.
One person told news.com.au the fight "wasn't all about Izzy" and that "not all who are donating share his beliefs or agree with all that he says.
"Free speech is important and people may want to use their own hard-earned money to support the case to uphold that right for all Australians," one donor said.
"A lot of us are getting sick of the leftist outrage mob, and will donate to see Rugby Australia pay for their dumb, intolerant decision."
You may find yourself surprised why people donated. They may not necessarily agree with his views but will help him defend his right to express them.— Vince (@gullibles) June 22, 2019
The former Wallaby thanked donors on Saturday for contributing to his legal fight against Rugby Australia, doubling down on his intention to use the funds despite public outcry, AAP reported.
He said he was "unsurprised" by criticism from Rugby Australia and media personalities regarding his decision to establish the GoFundMe page.
Folau is requesting donations despite a reported $7 million property portfolio and the recent sale of a $500,000 Lamborghini.
View this post on Instagram
Thank you to all those who have given to my Legal Action Fund so far. I am humbled and overwhelmed by the support I have received, for which I am very grateful. Unsurprisingly, I have been criticised by Rugby Australia and some sections of the media overnight. I decided to take legal action when Rugby Australia terminated my employment contract and ended my playing career after I expressed my religious beliefs on social media. I have received thousands of messages from supporters who believe discrimination in the workplace is wrong and has no place in Australia or anywhere else. Sadly, Rugby Australia have said that they will devote significant resources to fight me in court. This shows I have a long and hard battle on my hands, which is why I am asking for your support. The money that is donated will be used to fund my legal battle, which could take years. While the attacks against me have shown I have a big fight on my hands, I will stand strong. Your support and my faith in Jesus Christ will give me strength. If you choose to donate, within your capacity, I would be very grateful of your support for my legal case. For those not in the position to donate, I value your prayers and messages of support so much. God bless!
"The public is free to help fund his fight," another donor argued.
"You don't have to agree with what he's saying, but in a free society people should be able to express their opinion without fear of reprisal. I think you'll find most people reject totalitarianism."
Folau has launched legal proceedings with the Fair Work Commission against Rugby Australia and is seeking up to $10 million in damages.
The case could be a landmark test of religious freedoms in Australia. Rugby Australia was less than impressed by Folau's attempt to solicit donations online.
"From our perspective (GoFundMe) is a place where sick children get support, so it's certainly not a strategy we think is appropriate," Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle told Nine News on Friday.
It’s not about money,it’s about Supporting your believe in your religion— Leonardo Pezzano (@bearpezz) June 22, 2019
Matt Young is news.com.au's weekend editor. Continue the conversation @MattYoung
FOS is a common law freedom and IF has been persecuted due to his personal beliefs. Pandora’s box if contracts can control employees beliefs and freedom of expression.— The Sportsman (@Nezzy_Lives) June 22, 2019
I haven't donated but would say those that have are just "quiet Australians" at work again!— David (@sippydowns) June 22, 2019