opinion

Today, a man making $50,000 an hour wants us to believe he's the victim.

For most of us, today is a regular Tuesday in June. But for former rugby star Israel Folau, it’s a day where he’s making roughly $1000 a minute.

On average, every hour, he’s made about $50,000.

That’s what some Australian workers earn in a year.

Why is he earning hundreds of thousands of dollars so rapidly? Because he’s being persecuted. Because he’s being discriminated against. Because Australia won’t allow him his freedom. Because he’s not allowed to share his religious views.

That’s why everyday Australians have broken fundraising records to give him his voice. Because his voice (the same one asking for money) is being dangerously silenced.

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Folau’s fight started in April this year, when he shared a biblical passage on Instagram stating that hell awaited “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” unless they repented.

He was notified that the post constituted a “high-level breach” of the player code of conduct, outlined in his contract, and in early May he appeared in front of a Rugby Australia panel.

After the hearing, it was decided that Folau’s four-year contract would be terminated.

Change.org executive director Sally Rugg on Israel Folau. Post continues below video.

Video by Q&A

“We want to stress that this outcome is a painful situation for the game,” Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle said at the time.

“Rugby Australia did not choose to be in the situation, but Rugby Australia’s position remains that Israel, through his actions, left us with no choice but to pursue the course of action resulting in today’s outcome.”

Folau has made it clear that he wishes to fight the decision, and last week, he launched a GoFundMe page asking Australians for money to fund the rest of his action in court.

“Rugby was my livelihood,” the page read.

“Earlier this year, I uploaded some messages from the Bible on my Instagram page.

“I know some people do not like or believe in the Bible. Indeed, what makes our country so wonderful is that we have such a diverse community made up of so many different cultures and values. But my faith defines me as a person. I do not believe that it is fair or right that I be punished for my religious beliefs.

“I have lost my job, my livelihood, and the ability to play for my country. It looks like I will never be allowed to play rugby in this country again.”

Folau stated that he had started legal proceedings against Rugby Australia and Rugby NSW, which could take years to unfold. “My wife Maria and I have already spent over $100,000 of our own money,” he wrote.

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Image via Australian Christian Lobby.

"I have the fight of my life on my hands and every little bit will help."

Four days and $750,000 later, GoFundMe removed Folau's page.

"As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity," GoFundMe Australia’s regional manager Nicola Britton said on Monday. "While we welcome GoFundMe’s engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion."

The Australian Christian Lobby quickly responded.

By Tuesday morning, the group's managing director Martin Iles had tweeted a link to a new fundraising page on the Australian Christian Lobby's website, announcing that they would also be donating $100,000 towards his cause.

By early Tuesday evening, the page had raised over $1 million.

Speaking to media, legal experts like Kamal Farouque from Morris Blackburn Lawyers have estimated Folau's legal costs couldn't possibly exceed $300,000 in total.

So currently, there's a residual $500,000 that could be going directly to either the Australian Christian Lobby or Israel Folau himself - a man the Sydney Morning Herald estimates has a property portfolio worth $7 million.

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How is a person whose freedom of speech has been taken away, who is the victim of religious discrimination, who is being punished for what he believes, able to raise so much money, so quickly?

How is someone who isn't allowed to speak his mind receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars to support his pursuit of doing just that?

Because Israel Folau is not, by any definition, a victim.

No one has taken his freedom away.

He is allowed to speak his mind, no matter how hurtful, how discriminatory, how ill-informed. He just isn't allowed to be paid $4 million a year by Rugby Australia while he does it.

The success of Israel Folau's fundraising efforts show exactly how bizarre it is that they exist in the first place.

This is not a man who is being persecuted.

This is a man who today, is making $1000 a minute. And counting.

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