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Israel Folau’s fundraiser taken down after Australians donated for Rugby Australia legal battle

Israel Folau’s GoFundMe campaign has been taken down after more than $750,000 was donated to support his legal battle against Rugby Australia.

The former Wallaby was sacked last month for beaching his contract with an Instagram post that said gay people are sinners and will go to hell.

Folau, 30, claims his sacking was illegal and is demanding $10million in damages.

Despite being a multi-millionaire with a $6million property portfolio, he asked regular Australians to pay $3million for his legal fees via a GoFundMe campaign.

On Monday, the controversial campaign was removed and the page only read ‘Campaign Not Found’. 

A GoFundMe spokeswoman confirmed the page was taken down because it violated its terms and said donations will be refunded.

‘While we welcome GoFundMes engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion’, she said in a statement. 

On Monday, Folau’s controversial page was removed and the website only read ‘Campaign Not Found’

The fullback of Tongan descent said he and his wife Maria (pictured together) have spent $100,000 of his own money on legal bills so far – but are bracing for much higher fees to come

The page’s removal has divided opinion.

Some said GoFundMe was right to refuse to help a homophobic cause, while others said it was hypocritical for criticising exclusion while shutting Folau down.

‘Free speech and rainbow inclusiveness for everyone? Only if you think the way they want’, wrote one person on Twitter.

GoFundMe’s critics said the vast majority of Folau’s donors were probably not homophobic but just supporting free speech and freedom of religion.

Poll

Was GoFundMe right to take down the page?

  • Yes 302 votes
  • No 110 votes
  • Undecided 10 votes

The for-profit company was immediately accused of allowing the page to stay up for six days so it could sit on donors’ money while it gained interest. 

One critic wrote on Twitter: ‘GoFundMe should also pay interest over the donors’ money.

‘I find #gofundme’s claim that it is only now that it discovers that #Folau’s campaign violates their terms of service both ridiculous & unbelievable. They should have rejected Folau’s campaign at the outset.’  

The GoFundMe spokeswoman said the page stayed up to allow for a ‘routine period of evaluation’.   

Folau’s fundraising efforts were met with a wave of criticism on Friday.

Former Wallaby and teammate Drew Mitchell laid into the star, saying sick children were more deserving of support.

And Sydney Independent state MP Alex Greenwich urged people to donate to World Vision’s campaign to end child slavery instead.

‘If you are truly interested in supporting a Christian cause… do not donate to the #Folau fund,’ he posted on Twitter.     

‘We do not tolerate discrimination’: GoFundMe’s statement on Folau 

 Today we will be closing Israel Folau’s campaign and issuing full refunds to all donors. After a routine period of evaluation, we have concluded that this campaign violates our terms of service.

As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity. While we welcome GoFundMes engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion.

In the days since Mr Folau’s campaign launched, more than one million dollars have been donated to hundreds of other campaigns, large and small, across Australia. Those acts of kindness are the heart of GoFundMe. 

Our platform exists to help people help others. Australians have shown themselves to be among the most kind and generous people in the world. We look forward to helping more Australians fundraise for causes they care about in the coming months and years. 

Despite being a muti-millionaire with a $6million property portfolio, Folau asked regular Australians to pay $3million for his legal fees via a GoFundMe campaign

Despite being a muti-millionaire with a $6million property portfolio, Folau asked regular Australians to pay $3million for his legal fees via a GoFundMe campaign 

Folau signed a four-year contract in 2018 worth an estimated $5million and has been one of the country’s best paid sportsmen since joining rugby union in 2013. 

But Rugby Australia said he breached his contract which stated he must treat people equally and fairly.

Folau insists he was only sharing a message from the Bible and his sacking has cost him the ‘best years’ of his playing career.

His fundraising page, launched last Tuesday, featured a video of him talking to the camera cut with pictures of his childhood.  

The fullback of Tongan descent said he and his wife Maria have spent $100,000 of his own money on legal bills so far – but are bracing for much higher fees to come.

Folau (pictured with his wife) signed a four-year contract in 2018 worth an estimated $5million and has been one of the country's best paid sportsmen since joining rugby union in 2013

Folau (pictured with his wife) signed a four-year contract in 2018 worth an estimated $5million and has been one of the country’s best paid sportsmen since joining rugby union in 2013

Last Sunday Folau launched another attack on gay people and also criticised young people being allowed to change gender during a sermon (pictured) at his Sydney church

Last Sunday Folau launched another attack on gay people and also criticised young people being allowed to change gender during a sermon (pictured) at his Sydney church

‘That was just to try and deal with Rugby Australia’s internal tribunal processes.

‘The money I am asking for is solely to fund the rest of my action in court,’ he wrote.

On Friday morning he spoke publicly about the saga for the first time on Alan Jones’ 2GB radio show.

The star said he did not intend to offend gay people and revealed he is motivated by ‘standing up for the word of God’.  

‘From my perspective this comes from a place of love… so they can repent if they chose to and turn away from that and can go to heaven.’

Explaining why he is taking Rugby Australia on, he said: ‘My principle and my faith are what’s driving me from the get-go.

‘My faith defines me as a person.

‘My identity is my faith – that’s why I want to stand up for the word of God.’

Folau lodged a claim on 6 June, claiming his sacking breached Section 772 of the Fair Work Act.

The clause states it is unlawful to terminate employment on the grounds of ­religion.

Folau shared this social media post claiming homosexuals were going to hell unless they 'repent' - and he refused to apologise

Folau shared this social media post claiming homosexuals were going to hell unless they ‘repent’ – and he refused to apologise

Last Sunday Folau launched another attack on gay people and also criticised young people being allowed to change gender during a sermon at his Sydney church.

He described homosexuality as a sin and claimed the devil was behind primary school children being allowed to decide if they wanted to change gender.

‘This is what the devil is trying to do, to instill into the government, into this world, into society, and it is slowly happening,’ Folau said in his Sunday sermon at The Truth of Jesus Christ Church in Kenthurst.

‘The sad thing is why a lot of people out there that are non-Christians say bad things about the church, is because a lot of the churches allow those things to happen.

‘They say that a man and a man should be able to be married and there is nothing wrong with it. This buys into the theme of pleasing man rather than pleasing God and standing up for the truth.’

The 30-year-old’s rant was posted on the church’s Facebook page.

Folau also criticised modern ‘westernised’ churches and said true believers in Christ ‘profess him wherever we go’.

‘Are we too scared because we might be cast out by our workplace or cast out of somewhere because we’re not liked or loved by those around us and don’t believe the same thing we do?’ he asked.

‘You might be the only born-again Christian in that workplace, you might feel a bit awkward with your co-workers because they are in the world and you’re not. We should feel blessed… because God has called us.’  

The 30-year-old (center with his family as a child) was sacked after he made repeated homophobic comments on social media, claiming that homosexuals are destined for hell unless they repent for their sins

The 30-year-old (center with his family as a child) was sacked after he made repeated homophobic comments on social media, claiming that homosexuals are destined for hell unless they repent for their sins

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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