Israel Folau has launched legal action against Rugby Australia after he was fired because of homophobic social media posts. Back in 2018, he posted that “Hell awaited” gay people unless they repented their sins. And earlier this year, he shared a message in a similar vein.
Following this second post, Israel was sacked, although the matter was referred to a Code of Conduct panel. On May 17, the panel found against him, and he was officially fired.
However, lawyers for the former rugby player have confirmed that they have lodged a complaint with Australia’s Fair Work Commission.
In a statement, they said: “The applications were filed against both Rugby Australia Ltd. and Waratahs Rugby Pty Ltd. confirming the rugby star’s intent to seek a declaration that his employment was unlawfully terminated because of his religion.
“Under section 772 of the Fair Work Act it is unlawful to terminate employment on the basis of religion.”
In a statement, Israel said: “No Australian of any faith should be fired for practicing their religion. The messages of support we have received over these difficult few weeks have made me realise there are many Australians who feel their fundamental rights are being steadily eroded.”
It should be noted that there are plenty of Christians who are able to practice their religion without spreading anti-LGBTQ bigotry.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Israel Folau is seeking $5 million in lost income, and is possibly seeking damages for loss of opportunities that could raise the bill to $10 million.
Rugby Australia released their own statement defending their actions. “This is an issue of an employee and his obligations to his employers within the contract that he signed,” they said.
“He was bound by a code of conduct for all professional players in Australia that spells out clear guidelines and obligations regarding player behavior, including respectful use of social media.
“An independent panel, having sat for 22 hours and heard testimony from several witnesses and reviewed over 1000 pages of evidence, determined that Israel’s conduct constituted a high-level breach of the code of conduct and ordered termination of his playing contract.”