SPEAKING OUT: Folau says he was ‘backed into a corner’
Israel Folau said he felt "backed into a corner" by Rugby Australia when the organisation tried to pay him to take his controversial social media post down.
Speaking to Alan Jones and Peta Credlin on Sky News on Thursday night he said he's looking for an apology, so he can get on with his sports career
"It's been a very, very tough time for myself, Maria and our families over the past couple of weeks," he said. "But, we're holding up really strong and the support from the general public and those who are close to us has been amazing."
He said his faith is the most important thing to him and it shapes every aspect of his life.
"The Bible and what I believe comes out of that is very important to me and I believe it's my duty to share that," he said.
He also claimed his social media message was one of love.
"I can see it from both sides, if I had a child who was a drug addict I would still love them," he said.
He said Rugby Australia offered him money to take the post down, but he said he couldn't do that because of the strength of his faith.
Folau was told if he took down his controversial Instagram post which claimed "hell" awaited "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers" and others unless they repent, it would be deemed as remorseful and would have potentially downgraded his code of conduct breach from "high level" to a low or mid-level breach.
"I felt I was backed into a corner, but in the end I couldn't do it because my faith is most important," he said.
He also said he's not surprised by the backlash, because it states in the Bible that believers would be met with resistance for expressing their views.
Introducing his guest, Jones said, "I know this man, he's a gentle Polynesian Christian soul".
He warned that "you or I could be next.
"In court, you swear on the Bible to tell the truth, but don't quote from the Bible or you'll be sacked," he said.
"We are in dangerous territory and thousands and thousands of Australians understand that, that's why they're giving money."
He said Rugby Australia is spending money it should spend on grassroots sports to hire "the best lawyers in the country" to "humiliate" Folau.
Jones said our politicians are running scared from the issue of religious freedom and, this morning, he urged listeners to support Folau - saying his anticipated legal dispute with Rugby Australia is "one of the defining cases of our time".
Speaking on his 2GB show, Jones said: "We should all be doing our little bit because Israel Folau is fighting the battle for all of us.
"These are essential freedoms... it's a bit like the Mabo case, these are significant changes that must be made to the way we run our society if we are free and democratic."
Today, for first time since Folau's code of conduct hearing, RA's chief executive Raelene Castle has spoken out on the ongoing issue.
In a statement released on Thursday, Castle reiterated the organisation's stance as having "acted with complete professionalism".
"Rugby Australia has acted with complete professionalism and integrity at all times through the process by which Israel was found, by an independent three-member tribunal panel, to have made multiple, serious breaches of the Professional Players Code of Conduct," Castle's statement read.
"The panel found the breaches constituted a high level and directed Rugby Australia to terminate Israel's contract."
It comes as a campaign to raise funds to support the ex-Wallaby's legal stoush with Rugby Australia has been "paused" after donations topped $2 million.
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), which set up the fundraiser on its website, said the flow of donations since it was opened on Tuesday had been "overwhelming".
More than 20,000 people had donated more than $2.2 million by Thursday morning (AEST).
The campaign has been labelled "GodFundMe" by some, after the ACL swooped in to replace an earlier campaign on GoFundMe that was also taken down by the platform for breaching its service guidelines.
"Your overwhelming support means that Israel Folau has raised enough money for now," the ACL said in a statement on its website.
"ACL, Izzy and everyone involved is humbled and grateful. We are hitting the pause button. But if the case drags on and Israel needs more support, we will re-open this campaign."
The ACL said the fundraiser not only showed there was support for Folau but a "great movement of quiet Australians have found their voice.
"This cannot be ignored."
The same statement asked for Folau supporters to pledge their financial support to Folau in the future, should the former rugby star's legal costs rise above the war chest already raised. "If you would like to pledge your support below please do and we will be in touch when the need arises," the statement said.
Folau said last week Rugby Australia has already made it clear the governing body "will divert significant resources to fight me in court".
ACL managing director Martyn Iles on Wednesday night assured supporters the money raised will solely be used to meet Folau's legal costs.
It comes as a poll of more than 120,000 readers on news.com.au found 53 per cent of people believe Folau should be funding his legal battle out of his own pocket, having received salary payments in excess of $10 million throughout his sporting career.
"Israel's case is every Australian's case," Iles told The Australian. .
"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.
Folau wanted to raise $3 million for his unfair dismissal case, which he believes amounts to discrimination on religious grounds.
Folau is seeking $10 million in damages from RA and wants his multimillion-dollar contract reinstated after it was pulled by the association.
RA took issue with a social media post by the committed Christian in April that was condemned as homophobic.
Folau had paraphrased a Bible passage saying "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" would go to hell unless they repented.
Folau on Wednesday said he was humbled by the strength of the public support for his cause.
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!
"To those who have criticised me, I bear no ill will towards you. You have every right to express your own beliefs and opinions," he posted on Instagram.
- with AAP