By Spencer D Gear PhD
(Israel Folau playing for Australia in 2008. Photo courtesy Wikipedia)
Here’s a list of words in my current vocabulary:
- Rugby league
- Homosexual marriage
Would you have every right to call me homophobic and say nothing more about anything else in that list?
Shouldn’t I also be leagophobic, theophobic, factaphobic, faithaphobic, familophobic, adulterophobic or electophobic? These are my invented words to cover the nouns in the list above.
To say otherwise would make you a person who censors what I discuss and falsely labels who I am. What is someone who is homophobic? According to Oxford Living Dictionaries (2019. s.v. homophobic), it means ‘having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people’.
Mentioning the terms, homosexuals or homosexual marriage, does not make anyone homophobic because it says nothing about their like or dislike of homosexuals. The context is needed to clarify such conclusions.
When I upload this article to my homepage, ‘Truth Challenge’, I expect some to label me falsely as being homophobic, simply by mentioning homosexual. It’s a phoney label for my views.
Why take one item from my list and make it into news – fake news? Surely it’s driven by a contemporary political correctness that is irrational?
1. Folau’s fateful post
That is what has happened to champion Rugby Union player Israel Folau as a result of his personal post on Instagram on 10 April 2019:
Instagram (image courtesy SBS: The Feed, 11 April 2019)
One word, ‘homosexuals’, was reefed from this list to accuse Folau, who calls himself a Christian, of being homophobic. Why could that be?
It’s a cultural subject and behaviour that is gaining in public and mass media popularity. How dare Folau use that favoured word in his list of sins needing repentance through Jesus Christ!
This is blatant bigotry and censorship, in my view, that picks one word to send Folau to Rugby Gehenna.
What kinds of mass media stories would be fair from this Instagram post? ‘Drunks are heading for the pit’; ‘Liars will reap their lying crop’, or ‘Adulterers will burn in Hades’.
Instead, the one word is isolated to brand Folau homophobic. See how homosexuality is favoured in these articles:
(image courtesy Wikipedia)
- Rugby Australia issued the media release, ‘Rugby Australia Chief Executive, Raelene Castle and NSW Rugby Union CEO, Andrew Hore have issued the following statement in relation to Israel Folau’ (12 April 2019): ‘In the absence of compelling mitigating factors, it is our intention to terminate his contract’;
- Rugby Australia set to sack Israel Folau for anti-gay social media post (The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 April 2019);
- ABC News, 11 April 2019, reported, ‘Israel Folau to be sacked by Rugby Australia over homophobic comments’;
- ‘Hell awaits you’: Israel Folau embroiled in another anti-gay social media storm (Fox Sports, 11 April 2019).
- Radio 2GB, SACKED | Rugby Australia terminate Israel Folau’s contract after homophobic rant (11 April 2019).
3. Statement by NSW Rugby Union
Part of the statement of termination of Folau’s contract by Rugby Australia was:
“Israel has failed to understand that the expectation of him as a Rugby Australia and NSW Waratahs employee is that he cannot share material on social media that condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality.
“Rugby is a sport that continuously works to unite people. We want everyone to feel safe and welcome in our game and no vilification based on race, gender, religion or sexuality is acceptable and no language that isolates, divides or insults people based on any of those factors can be tolerated” (Rugby Australia and NSW Rugby Union statement regarding Israel Folau, 11 April 2019).
Folau did not mention homosexuals only. Does the NSW Rugby Union want liars, drunks, promiscuous, and thieves hanging around their football grounds? Why single out sexuality, race, gender and religion, especially homosexuality and not adultery and fornication (mentioned by Folau)?
4. Freedom of speech in Australia.
What prevents Folau from making openly Christian statements in the public square? Is he not guaranteed freedom of speech as an elite sportsman?
The Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department has defined this freedom:
The right to freedom of opinion is the right to hold opinions without interference, and cannot be subject to any exception or restriction.
The right to freedom of expression extends to any medium, including written and oral communications, the media, public protest, broadcasting, artistic works and commercial advertising. The right is not absolute. It carries with it special responsibilities, and may be restricted on several grounds. For example, restrictions could relate to filtering access to certain internet sites, the urging of violence or the classification of artistic material (What is the right to freedom of opinion and expression?)
(image courtesy Clip Art Mag)
From where does this freedom of opinion come? ‘Australia is a party to seven core international human rights treaties. The right to freedom of opinion and expression is contained in articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)’I.
Radio 2GB talk-back host, Alan Jones, defended Folau, saying this issue has ‘nothing to do with Israel, or Rugby, or religion, or homosexuals. Where are we in this country on free speech?’
Macquarie Sports Radio host, James Willis, opposed Jones, stating that Rugby Australia has every right to terminate his contract:
“By signing up and accepting the $4 million that Israel Folau did, part of the contract was not putting anything on social media that may potentially offend.
“12 months ago he was hauled in and told, ‘please do not do that again’, and he agreed to. He resigned and then 12 months later has done so again”.
What are the issues at stake:
(1) Freedom of speech,
(2) Freedom of religion,
(3) Eliminating fake news where only one word (homosexuals) is chosen when many more were in the Instagram message; and
(4) Folau’s integrity in abiding by the terms of his contract.
5. Origin of Folau’s quote
Almost all of the now famous Instagram quote is straight from the Christian Scriptures:
Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were (1 Cor 6:9-11).
That text does not say that these sinners will go to hell, but that they ‘will not inherit the kingdom of God’. That’s the same end in biblical terms as ‘hell awaits you’ (Folau’s quote).
The Scriptures tell who will end in Hades/Hell after this life: ‘Then he will say to those on his left (the unrighteous), “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”’ (Matt 25:41).
6. My counsel to Folau
To Israel I say: You are a superb rough and tumble professional rugby player. You are not an expert lawn bowler. However, all Christians are to grow in the fruit of the Spirit which include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
While your Instagram quote was faithful to biblical teaching, it was not presented with kindness and gentleness, in my view. You also sent these sinners to hell, when 1 Corinthians 6 says they ‘will not inherit the kingdom of God’, which I find to be a less confronting way of dealing with the reality of what happens after death.
I commend you for your stand for Christian truth in the public square, but have unwise words cost you your sporting career?
Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 01 August 2019.