Australian national rugby team fires player for saying that sinners -- including gays -- will go to hell

He’s a devout Christian who believes things that devout Christians tend to believe, and not only about gays. Here’s the Instagram post that just got him banned from the national rugby team, the Wallabies, all but ending his career in sports:

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Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him. _______________ Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these , adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19‭-‬21 KJV _______________ Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38 KJV _______________ And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Acts 17:30 KJV _______________

A post shared by Israel Folau (@izzyfolau) on

A three-person panel was assigned to consider whether the Instagram post violated the sport’s code of conduct. Verdict: “Our clear message for all rugby fans is that we need to stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork.” A gay-rights group in Australia applauded the decision as a sign that “homophobic and transphobic discrimination is not acceptable,” but he’s not discriminating against gays. On the contrary, his list is pretty …”inclusive.” If there’s evidence that Folau thinks gays should suffer special legal disabilities, that he refuses to associate with them, that he uses slurs to describe them or otherwise singles them out in any way — evidence of animus, in other words — I could understand disciplining him. But they’re one group here in a garden-variety roll call of the damned that includes “fornicators” and, er, drunks. He doesn’t even go as far as to say that gays are condemned. Like anyone else, they’re condemned if they don’t repent. Again, Christianity 101.

He’s considering his legal options, which could involve a rehearing with a different three-person panel or a petition to Australia’s Supreme Court on religious freedom grounds:

“I am deeply saddened by today’s decision to terminate my employment and I am considering my options.

“As Australians, we are born with certain rights, including the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of expression. The Christian faith has always been a part of my life and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God’s word. Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club and country.

The rugby union could have approached this question in three ways. One: You’re not allowed to hold this opinion, period. It’s a thoughtcrime. Any evidence of it is grounds for disqualification. Two: You’re allowed to hold this opinion but you must not state it, ever. (How one would know that you hold the opinion if you’re not allowed to acknowledge it is unclear.) Three: You’re allowed to hold this opinion but you must state it tactfully, at least more tactfully than Folau did with his Instagram meme. The head of the panel claims in the clip below that players are entitled to their opinions so they must be following either the second or third approach. But you’re left to wonder how Folau could have broached this subject in a manner tactful enough to have made it acceptable to the panel. If he were asked, “Do you believe gays are sinners?” and said yes and nothing more, is that grounds for dismissal? If it’s per se “homophobic” to affirm that you follow Christian teachings on homosexuality then tact is beside the point.

The message the union is sending here, I take it, is simply “keep your opinions to yourself.” But that’s the catch — Folau appears to take his obligation to evangelize seriously. Hushing him up as a condition of playing the sport means forcing him to choose between the sport and the basic obligations of his faith. “Serious Christians need not apply” will end up as the takeaway. (A Polynesian teammate of Folau’s commented afterward, “Might as well sack me and all the other Pacific Islands rugby players around the world because we have the same Christian beliefs.”) They should have used an “animus” test and let him continue to play on grounds that he seems to hold no ill will towards gays or anyone else on his sinners list. If fans, teammates, and endorsers want to shun him because of his view, of course they have every right.