I couldn’t sleep last night. All the bigotry, hatred and stupidity in the news gets to me sometimes. For some reason, Israel Folau’s story has really bothered me. It’s not just that old Izzy likes to stand at a pulpit and tell people they’re going to hell, it’s that when called out for it he’s gone straight for the ‘I’m being victimised for my beliefs’ trope. You know, the one people use when they want the right to say something indefensible and not be criticised for it.
Izzy’s set up a GoFundMe campaign asking people to donate so he can raise money for his legal defense. And that’s the sort of bullshit that has me staring at the ceiling at 5am wondering what the hell is wrong with this world. Let’s review.
Israel Folau’s a lucky guy. He’s 6’4”, 103 kilos and can run the hundred metres in about four seconds. When you put a ball in his hands, he bashes a bunch of other big blokes out of the way until he puts the ball on the ground on one side of a line painted on the ground, and then thousands of people jump up and down with joy. Because of this he’s become a very sought after bloke. He’s played three different football codes and been paid handsomely for his services wherever he goes. When Izzy decided to give rugby league the flick there was a bidding war for his services ending with a multi-million dollar contract with GWS, for whom he turned out all of thirteen times, slotting a whopping two career goals.
Like I say, lucky guy.
But Izzy’s luck began to run out when he started opening his mouth while holding another multi-million dollar contract, this time with Rugby Australia. You see, Izzy reckons he has a hotline to a man who lives in the sky who is in control of everything in the world. This man loves us all, but despite being omnipotent he’s powerless to stop people wanting to do things in their bedroom that make him really angry. And because old Izzy has this close relationship with the man in the stars, he feels it’s his duty to tell everyone what the man wants, and in particular how the man really does hate those damn gays.
And that’s where the trouble started.
You see, Izzy can’t stop himself from saying that homosexual people are going to hell. Now, you’d think that the threat of eternity in a really hot place filled with fire and unhappiness might stop those gays and make them like the opposite sex again but no, it turns out they still want to have a good time, dance to disco music and generally be allowed to live their lives in peace and quiet. And that’s the kind of shit that gets god really very angry indeed, so Izzy doubled down. In April this year he posted a meme on Instagram that warned ‘homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators and thieves’ that (his caps lock, not mine) ‘HELL AWAITS YOU. REPENT. ONLY JESUS SAVES’.
Now, that’s casting the net a bit wide don’t you reckon? Liars and thieves too? I’ve told the occasional fib, and when I was about four I mistakenly took a plastic toy from a shop, not understanding the rules of commerce. So it turns out that Izzy thinks a whole heap of us are headed down for a good long dose of sulphur.
And Rugby Australia had a problem. You see, the national side is a bit rubbish at the moment and we’ve got a world cup in a few months. As you will recall, Izzy’s extremely good at making his 100-kilo rig move very fast while carrying a ball, so to give him the flick with Japan on the horizon was, perhaps understandably, not something they really wanted to do. But in 2019 when you’ve got a crazed loon on your hands raving about gays and jesus, it’s not a good look. And when you also employ this loon under a contract that outlines a code of conduct, you may well be within your rights to show him the door.
So that’s where we find ourselves. Izzy thinks he’s the injured party here, a victim of these intolerant times when a man can’t speak his religious views without consequence. On Easter Sunday the poor man broke down while delivering a sermon, quoting Matthew – ‘for what shall it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his own soul’. A few weeks later he lost a major sponsor, so that may have answered his question.
This month, Israel Folau commenced proceedings against Rugby Australia for breach of contract. If the case proceeds, it may end up being a significant legal milestone as Australia debates a tired moral question – is it OK for someone to say bigoted things because they have religious views?
The short answer is ‘no’, of course. Personally, I think Izzy should have read his contract before he said what he said, but Folau’s up for a fight so he’s launched a GoFundMe campaign, trying to raise $3 million for his legal costs.
There’s a couple of things you should know right off the bat. First, it’s worth noting the disclaimer at the bottom of the appeal, which says there are ‘no obligations’ for Folau ‘to apply the funds in any particular way with respect to his legal action’. That’s one sweet get-out clause. Second, and more importantly, this really isn’t what GoFundMe is all about. It’s supposed to be a way for people to raise money when they don’t have any. Izzy’s got lots of money – his property portfolio is reportedly worth $5 million alone.
And this is where you begin to want to take a shower. GoFundMe’s homepage features images of children in wheelchairs, and water bottles being loaded into a plane. Izzy’s got the top listing, and as of today has raised over half a million dollars. The images next to his are of a young girl with neuroblastoma and a boy with hepatoblastoma. They’re appealing for much smaller sums of money for their desperate situations, but Izzy’s already raised more than three times the amount they’ve got, combined. And now I’m going to go and puke.
Izzy’s said that he has ‘the fight of my life on my hands’, but he’s competing for precious money with children who really are fighting for their lives, so he can have the right to say that god hates gays.
Here’s the thing. God doesn’t really hate gays. The bible has virtually nothing to say about homosexuality, save for a few short lines, and most of those are in that wacky fire and brimstone book of Leviticus, the one Samuel L Jackson quotes before he shoots people. Leviticus says that touching the skin of a dead pig makes you unclean. Luckily for Izzy, rugby balls have been made from synthetics since 1980, but the bible also says you can sell your daughter as a slave (Exodus), and is pretty keen on executing people for a variety of trivial offences. Hell, it says you can’t eat shellfish something like nine times, but I’ve seen prawn platters at the church fete. You can pick and choose love and hate from the bible, that’s your choice, just as you can choose to be a loving person or a hateful one.
You know who actually hates gays? Bigots. Bigoted children mocking their classmates for not being like the rest of them. Bigoted men bashing gay couples in the street. Bigoted governments around the world, imprisoning or even executing people for perceived sexual deviancy. Words have consequences, and somewhere along the way there’s going to be a boy going home with a black eye because intolerant bigoted people like Israel Folau feel it’s their god-given right to use a pulpit to spout hatred, and to keep their job at the same time.
Israel Folau’s words have rightly cost him his job. His legal action demands that people claiming connection to an invisible celestial being are above such petty matters as contract law, and their beliefs should allow them to say whatever they want, irrespective of consequence. His GoFundMe campaign is a disgusting perversion of human generosity, and an insult to those poor families facing the worst misfortunes imaginable and needing money to save their children. This entitled man wants you to pay for his right to bigotry. What religion would defend that? What god would divert funds to a lawyer over a dying child?
As you can see, it gets me a touch riled up. But as Bluto says, don’t get mad, get even. That’s what had me up at 5am. How, I wondered, could we turn this story into a positive. How could we do something good, with the added bonus of annoying Israel Folau.
Today I have set up a GoFundMe campaign called ‘Put Izzy in a Tizzy’. Its aim is to raise as much money as possible ($3 million would be nice), and to spend that money in the cause of anti-bigotry, tolerance, inclusion and compassion. I’ve had a few ideas, and welcome yours.
– Donations to Australian-based charities offering counselling or support to people facing persecution or mental anguish based on their sexuality.
– Money for Marko, a two-year old boy in Victoria diagnosed with neuroblastoma. He had a tumour the size of an orange removed from his body before his second birthday. His family are using GoFundMe to try to raise $350,000 to pay for treatment in the US. As of today they’re not quite half-way there. Let’s fix that.
– Sponsorship of an LGBTIQ rugby match, at which all sexes and sexualities are welcome. Perhaps we could ask Rugby Australia to officially sanction and support the game, with all proceeds to support groups for gay people wishing to play sport.
Israel Folau has led a lucky life, but still thinks he needs three million dollars of the Australian public’s money, to pay his legal fees for the right to be a bigot. We’re better than that. Let’s out-raise him and spend that money in a way that makes Australia a more inclusive, tolerant nation.
Make Australia Tolerant Again! Put Izzy in a Tizzy!
Please pass this message on to everyone you know, give what you can, and follow us on social media so we can tell you how we’re getting on.
Thank you. I feel better already.
Independent Journalist and Blogger