Australia’s real verdict on Folau


The ex-Wallaby claims he’s in the “fight of his life” to be reinstated by Rugby Australia, which pulled his $4 million contract in May after the committed Christian posted a Bible passage on social media and was criticised for being homophobic.

The post said “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” would go to hell unless they repented.

His wife, Maria, has made no public statements on her husband’s plight — which he claims is discrimination on religious grounds — but found the spotlight turned her way after she reposted two links to her husband’s fundraising campaign five days ago.

Folau is trying to build a war chest to support his unfair dismissal case against RA, which he believes could go all the way to the High Court. He’s already raised more than $2 million — enough that the Australian Christian Lobby paused its fundraising efforts today.

To be clear, we’re not saying this temperature test is a perfect reflection of how our nation views the issue. It was possible to vote more than once if you used separate devices and was shared on Facebook pages promoting LGBTI rights — and by supporters of Andrew Bolt and Tony Abbott — which would have influenced the results.

But with more than 150,000 votes over 24 hours (the poll is now closed), it’s a fair snapshot.

See how Australia voted — along with an analysis of the results from our sports editor Jai Bednall and political reporter Sam Clench.

Jai says: I’ve been bingeing on Sons of Anarchy this month and in the show — like in our criminal court system — you need a unanimous vote to strip a motorcycle club member of his patch. I’d say the relatively narrow margin of this result suggests Rugby Australia was wrong to rob a man of his livelihood.

Sam says: This result confirms Folau’s belief that many people who disagree with his comments nevertheless feel he should not have been sacked over them. And it reflects legal opinion as well. Experts lean towards Rugby Australia winning this case, but with no precedent to work from, it’s far closer to a 50/50 toss-up than most people think.

Jai says: Former Wallaby and Folau opponent Peter FitzSimons thought asking the public for money reduced support for the former Waratah from “30 per cent to 10 per cent”. But the result suggests it wasn’t as damaging as Fitzy thought.

Sam Clench says: This is a big majority, and a firm rebuke of Folau’s decision to seek donations from the public. People just aren’t comfortable with a multi-millionaire who can afford to pay his own legal costs expecting them to do it instead.

Jai says: 11 per cent is probably higher than expected, so congratulations news.com.au readers, you’re a generous bunch. The 6 per cent who donated to a different cause show the spin-off effect of Folau’s fundraising. The sick kids Drew Mitchell feared were missing out may have actually benefited from the exposure, as people who may not have donated otherwise dipped into their pockets.

Sam says: Jai is bang on here. The best thing that has come out of this saga is the extra attention Folau has drawn, however unintentionally, to more important causes. Though I must confess, it’s still slightly disheartening that twice as many people donated to the rich sportsman than the children in desperate need of help. Hopefully there was some overlap.

Jai says: Pretty much mirrors the result to the first question. If you were against Folau, you likely thought GoFundMe made the right move.

Sam says: I’m actually surprised this reflects the first result so closely. I’ve spoken to a fair few people who supported Folau’s sacking, but thought GoFundMe went too far. Guess this shows the advantage of a large sample size over anecdotal evidence — cold, hard math always wins.

Jai says: Pretty convincing result which validates the decisions of Netball SA and Netball NZ to stand by Maria despite the pressure from some quarters.

Sam says: Maria’s only apparent sin here, if I may use that word somewhat ironically, is to stand by her husband. It’s a bit much to expect her to refrain from showing him any public support at all. Maria herself has not posted anything that could be considered hateful, and I reckon this result confirms Australians’ common sense.

Jai says: If more than a third of respondents are worried, the Australian Christian Lobby’s plea for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to address this issue when parliament convenes next week is worth considering.

Sam says: It’s important to recognise how many Australians are worried about this issue — more than enough to make it one of public importance. The difficulty comes in properly defining religious freedom, which means different things to different people. And in figuring out what should happen when it comes into conflict with other rights — for example, the right of an employer to hold its workers to behavioural standards.

Jai says: It’s not exactly the same question that was asked in the same-sex marriage plebiscite but shows the increasing acceptance of the gay community in Australia.

Sam says: Again, much like religious freedom, the exact definition of gay rights is open to interpretation. But in general, this confirms society is moving consistently towards a more accepting attitude. That 21 per cent is going to keep going down.

Jai says: This result doesn’t appear consistent with the response to the first question but is a good reminder that these types of debates aren’t as black-and-white as the people on TV and Twitter attempt to make them. You can not agree with what Folau wrote — and believe he should keep his job. You can support gay rights — but not want to be lectured to by social justice warriors every day.

Sam says: The word “lectured” really stands out to me there. Most people believe in being kind and decent to others, but they absolutely hate being lectured about it. We need to find a way to make debates like this one more constructive, instead of retreating into our separate corners and shouting at each other. We are all guilty of doing that to some extent — dare I say it, opinionated media types like myself more than most.





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