In May 2019, the contract of professional Australian rugby league player Israel Folau was terminated abruptly more than three years prematurely.
A Queensland success story, Folau is the current record holder for the most tries scored in Super Rugby history. He was the youngest player to represent Queensland in the State of Origin and even had a street named after him in a suburb in Ipswich, south of Brisbane.
Folau could do no wrong and had a great future ahead of him so the sudden and controversial termination of his contract left many reeling.
His professional demise began when he was found guilty by Rugby Australia of a breach of code of conduct after openly voicing his controversial opinion on same-sex marriage and homosexuality in line with his biblical beliefs.
Rugby Australia ended the contract on the grounds that his social media comments failed to uphold their values of inclusion, integrity and respect. Folau has not taken the termination of his contract meekly claiming he has been unfairly dismissed based on his religious beliefs.
He presented his case to the Fair Work Commission, however, a settlement with Rugby Australia was not forthcoming. Since then, Folau has commenced proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in a bid to have his contract reinstated.
The issue here is not Folau’s rugby talent. At the peak of his career, he is more than fit to represent Australia.
Nor is it his religious beliefs. While many may not agree with his stance on homosexuality, it’s unheard of that anyone should lose their job in Australia due to voicing Christian beliefs.
While it’s Folau’s democratic right to state religious beliefs publicly, it’s his method of delivery that’s in question.
Social media can run a fine line between free speech and hate speech and that’s where the controversy lies.
Should a young rugby player who has already achieved so much be unable to represent his country simply because he has stated what is written in the Bible regarding homosexuality?
Or should this household name have his contract reinstated based on religious freedom of speech? Have your say.