Israel Folau has resorted to fundraising after being fired over anti-LGBTQ comments.
The devout Christian, who was the highest paid rugby player in Australia, has been embroiled in legal battles with Rugby Australia after he claimed homosexuals will “end up in hell” and that “only Jesus” can save them in an Instagram post.
He also shared offensive remarks on Twitter, claiming that “the devil has blinded so many people in this world” in response to an article about Tasmania allowing people 16 years and older to legally change their gender without parental consent.
Now, after claiming he spent $100,000 of his own money on Rugby Australia’s internal tribunal processes, he’s asking fans to donate money through a GoFundMe page to help him afford the rest of his legal fees.
“My faith is the most important thing in my life. I try to live my life according to the Bible and I believe it is my duty to share the word of the Bible,” Folau said in a message on the GoFundMe website, arguing that he was fired because of his religious beliefs.
“Earlier this year, I uploaded some messages from the Bible on my Instagram page. I believe that sharing the Bible is an act of love and compassion.”
Folau has set a target of $3,000,000 and has so far raised over $400,000.
The decision to launch a fundraiser has faced backlash from many. Rugby commentator Drew Mitchell slammed Folau’s “greed” and highlighted that there are much more worthy causes for people to donate money to.
YOU are in a fight that YOU chose to be in after YOU broke the terms of YOUR contract, the kids below are in a fight they NEVER wanted to be in & yet YOU think YOU deserve donations more than they do??!!
— Drew Mitchell (@drew_mitchell) June 21, 2019
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Israel Folau is seeking $5 million in lost income, and is possibly seeking damages for loss of opportunities that could raise the bill to $10 million.
Rugby Australia released their own statement defending their actions. “This is an issue of an employee and his obligations to his employers within the contract that he signed,” they said.
“He was bound by a code of conduct for all professional players in Australia that spells out clear guidelines and obligations regarding player behavior, including respectful use of social media.
“An independent panel, having sat for 22 hours and heard testimony from several witnesses and reviewed over 1000 pages of evidence, determined that Israel’s conduct constituted a high-level breach of the code of conduct and ordered termination of his playing contract.”