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Israel Folau posts new message as Christian lobby calls on Australian PM

Author
news.com.au / NZ Herald,
Section
Sport,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 26 June 2019, 1:06PM
Israel Folau says he has no ill will towards his critics (Image / Getty Images)
Israel Folau says he has no ill will towards his critics (Image / Getty Images)

Israel Folau says he has no ill will towards his critics, who have "every right" to express their own beliefs and opinions.

Folau's new fundraiser has raised more than $1.7 million, putting him more than halfway to his goal to build a multi-million war chest to fund his unfair dismissal case.

The appeal hosted by the Australian Christian Lobby has now amassed more than Folau's successful GoFundMe campaign raised in four days, before the fundraising website shut it down on Monday.

He responded to the incredible generosity in a message on Instagram on Wednesday morning.

View this post on Instagram

I am humbled by the support I have received from so many of you since Rugby Australia terminated my employment contract after I shared a religious message on social media. To those who have criticised me, I bear no ill will towards you. You have every right to express your own beliefs and opinions. To the thousands of you who donated to my GoFundMe campaign, I am forever grateful. GoFundMe’s decision to shut down my campaign proves the importance of my case; whether you share my faith or believe in my right to express it, attempts to sanction what we believe is a threat to all Australians. I am incredibly thankful for the Australian Christian Lobby, which has not only come to my defence in the media, but generously established a website to receive donations on my behalf. For those not in a position to donate, your support and prayers will make more of a difference than anything else. God bless!

A post shared by Israel Folau (@izzyfolau) on Jun 25, 2019 at 4:32pm PDT

Folau's camp calls to Prime Minister

The ACL has called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to make a stand when parliament convenes next week.

"Israel's case is every Australian's case," Iles said in a video released overnight.

"Thousands and thousands of quiet Australians have donated generously to Folau's legal defence fund and many of them are the same quiet Australians who stood up for the religious freedom at the federal election only a month ago."

"Izzy's treatment speaks volumes about the challenges facing our society," he added.

"The activists don't just want to silence Israel Folau, they want to make an example out of him. They want to make it very clear that for people of faith, and people with beliefs that fit outside the narrow band of political correctness, there is no place for them …

"It's time for our politicians to lead. It's time for Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese to outline in detail how they will protect people of faith and the important principles of freedoms that are raised by Israel's case.

"This sort of public lynching is unacceptable in a supposedly tolerant and ethnically and religiously diverse country like Australia and our politicians cannot simply wash their hands like Pontius Pilate."

Charity watchdog alerted to new page

The ACL's decision to host a fundraising page for Folau and donate $100,000 of its own money to his cause has sparked complaints to Australia's charity watchdog, the Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).

The Christian Lobby is a registered charity, which means it pays no tax and receives other financial benefits. For example, Visa, MasterCard and American Express all give charities interchange fees of 0 per cent.

This morning Nine newspapers reported "a number of complainants" had raised concerns with the ACNC over the Christian Lobby's efforts to help Folau.

"The ACNC can investigate concerns that a charity has breached the ACNC Act or the Governance Standards," the ACNC said in response.

"This may include not pursuing its charitable purpose, not operating in a not-for-profit manner, or providing private benefits to members."

The Christian Lobby's listing on the ACNC website would suggest its advocacy for Folau does qualify as pursuit of its charitable purpose.

"The company's long-term objective is to advance Christianity by seeing Christian principles and ethics influencing the way Australia is governed, does business and relates as a community," its summary of activities says.

It explicitly mentions running advocacy campaigns to "protect religious freedoms", which is what Folau argues he is doing.

"We have received multiple requests to comment on the ACL's decision to support Israel Folau's fundraising efforts," the ACNC added on Twitter.

"We remind the public that we cannot comment on the circumstances of individual charities. When a charity has acted inappropriately, we will use our powers to investigate."

ACL: Maria condemned for sharing post

Iles also responded to reports the ANZ Bank publicly condemned Folau's wife, Maria.

Maria has made no public statement about her husband's stance, but did share a link on social media to his fundraising page.

Speaking on Today this morning, Iles said he was not surprised by the ANZ Bank response.

"They have condemned her for sharing a post by her husband and putting her employer, the New Zealand national netball team, on notice as well," Mr Iles said.

"It doesn't surprise me at all. This is precisely the reason why people are supporting Israel Folau.

"They see time and time again, whether it is ANZ Bank targeting his wife, whether it is people targeting GoFundMe with complaints, whether it is Israel being targeted with lies being able to persist in the media about him, whether it is him losing his job, it is all under this language of inclusion, but not so inclusive they can include somebody with beliefs they disagree with.

"People hear this every day in their workplaces, every day in conversations that they have.

"They hear it and think that means shut up and that pinch of political correctness is very, very real. I think that is why there is such energy behind this."

ANZ released a statement to distance itself from the accusations on Wednesday. "We value our partnership with Netball NZ and any suggestion we have tried to pressure them is absolutely incorrect," the statement read.

"ANZ NZ believes in diversity and inclusion. We're very proud we have a rainbow tick as an

employer and over the years have supported rainbow activities in the community.

"We do not support any views or actions that can be interpreted as supporting homophobia.

"We will continue to support Netball NZ and the tens of thousands of participants and

supporters of the game."

The ACL can't say where excess money will go

But the Australian Christian Lobby was not able to confirm what any excess money raised for Israel Folau's legal funds would be diverted to.

Mr Iles said he could "not go into detail" about where any money above the $3 million mark would go.

As of this morning, the Christian group's fundraiser has topped $1.5 million, raising more money in less than 24 hours than the defunct GoFundMe appeal did over four days.

Asked by host Deborah Knight about the potential excess donations, Mr Iles said: "It will be distributed in a way that is consistent with …"

Knight interrupted: "Distributed where though?"

"It will go to different causes that are completely consistent with the intentions of the original donors," Mr Iles replied.

Pressed for where that will be exactly, Mr Iles said: "I am not able to go into the detail at this stage."

At this point, Knight asked him to confirm it would not be used personally.

"Absolutely not personal use, absolutely not the ACL," he replied. "They bought into Israel because they see him as somebody they want to champion. They see him as somebody they identify with, and there is a great deal of trust built up there.

"That is not misplaced at all. This money will be used well and will actually end up making a difference regardless of where it goes."

Asked about whether Folau really needs the financial help — given his multimillion-dollar contract and assortment of properties — Mr Iles said there were "two angles to that question".

"One is that it is a very Australian thing to say that someone has been on a good wicket, therefore we just leave them alone. I think that the cost to Israel Folau has been serious in the sense that he lost his career, he has been banned for life from the two sporting codes he can play," he said.

"He has the funds to live on for a very long time. He is a human. This has taken its toll on him. He found it is a great challenge. People want to say there is more with you than against you, but there is the other side. Look what he has been able to achieve.

"We can talk about this for days in the media. They have been able to achieve giving a voice to so many people who want to buy into his campaign, and these people feel like they are part of a movement. They are being heard and are actually making a difference."

Mr Iles believes the campaign has been driven by "people feeling stifled", a "pinch of political correctness" and the "language used against Israel".

"When GoFundMe shut it down, it only confirmed their concerns. They said, 'Here you go, here it is again'," he said.

"As a result they gave a whole lot more. They feel like they are having their voice heard, so that is having an impact.

"They want to be able to put more money in, raise their voice for their freedom and make a difference. These are what we call the quiet Australians."

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