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Israel Folau

Rants Free speech in Hong Kong is becoming a cause for concern so I thought the story of Israel Folau was of particular interest.

Folau, for those of you who do not know him, is, currently, the number one rugby union player in Australia. He also happens to have strong Christian beliefs and publishes items to that effect on his Facebook page. Despite having been warned about putting up offensive items before, he recently published a biblical quotation indicating that, for drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters hell awaits them unless they repent.

In this era of being offended, people were offended and he is in danger of losing his lucrative, $4 million Australian dollar contract. When you consider the behaviour of some rugby players both on and off the field, Folau lives a pretty blameless life. As other writers have said, he doesn’t beat up his wife nor does he take part in questionable after match practices with young women in bars and yet few who commit such offences are hit with such a serious penalty as Folau is facing.

There are numerous issues here. Most of us believe in free speech but probably all agree that a line must be drawn somewhere and the writings of white supremacists and Nazi sympathisers tend to be seen as being the other side of that line.

Now Mr Folau’s views and beliefs definitely do not coincide with mine but if he believes in an imaginary friend that is entirely up to him. I know people whom I imagined were friends but turned out not to be but they aren't deities whatever they might like to think. If Mr Folau feels the need to declare his beliefs and express his opinions to the whole world, that is up to him. I would not be happy if someone told me that I could not express my opinions online but when you know you are going to offend people, should you still go ahead and express your opinions? Politicians do it all the time and they would be unlikely to achieve much if they didn’t offend at least 50% of the population at some point or other so at least a modicum of offence is both acceptable and almost a requirement in their case!

I probably fit into at least three of Mr Folau’s categories for hell and damnation. Am I offended? No, I am not, not even slightly, why should I be offended? It’s Mr Folau’s opinion, I don't believe in hell and damnation so I have nothing to be afraid of so it's really only Christians who would be worried and, I would assume, they already have an idea of what the bible says. If he had said that he will make it his goal in life to send all members of the offending categories to the hereafter by chopping off their heads, then I think he may have crossed that invisible line but he has said nothing of the sort. As far as I am concerned, Mr Folau is misguided but I am sure he would say the same about me, as would a lot of other people but his post was hardly offensive unless you want to be offended.

Rugby Australia has decided that he has broken a code of conduct having already been warned about the things he has posted online. That is a different issue entirely from freedom of speech and it’s for RA and their lawyers to decide but, in my opinion, they are wrong and are jumping on the “I want to be offended” band wagon. Are people right to say they will not play against a team if Israel Folau was in it? Sounds pretty daft to me. When team lists are published and shown to the opposition should they include a summary of the players' political and religious beliefs together with anything about which they feel strongly or whether they have cats in case a member of the opposition has a cat allergy. Of course not.

But, as a final word, Mr Folau likes to quote from the bible so, while he tries to protect his $4 million contract he should spare a moment to consider Matthew 19:23-26 (and similar passages in Mark and Luke) “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”. So, if the bible is true, mate, you are set to spend eternity with the homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters. Good luck with that.

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