Sacked Australian Wallabies star Israel Folau says he has no regrets over the homophobic Instagram post that ended his rugby union career, despite knowing it would be offensive.
Instead of preparing for the Wallabies’ World Cup quarter final showdown against England in Japan, Folau spent Saturday addressing hundreds of Christians as a headline speaker at the Australian Christian Lobby national conference dubbed Not Ashamed.
The devout Christian’s $4 million contract was torn up by Rugby Australia in May after he shared a homophobic social media posts a month earlier.
Israel Folau posed for photos with fellow devout Christians at the Australian Christian Lobby national conference in Sydney on Saturday
Despite his rugby union career now in tatters, Folau appeared to be in high spirits at the conference at the Sydney International Conference Centre, where he happily signed autographs and posed for photos with the crowd.
He received a rock star welcome when he arrived on the stage for a Q and A session and left with a standing ovation.
Folau, 30, opened up about why he paraphrased a Bible passage saying ‘drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters’ would go to hell unless they repented.
Prior to sending the post, Folau recalled the ‘crazy prayer’ where he asked God as to whether he would continue to serve him faithfully.
Israel Folau (pictured with wife Maria) is now suing his former employer Rugby Australia
‘So I knew it was going to be offensive to a lot of people … but ultimately it’s a message of love,’ Folau told the packed room.
‘I guess when I had prayed that prayer I was talking about earlier, I had already purpose in my heart that if I was to find myself in this situation (that) at least I was going to what’s right by God and stand up for the truth, regardless of the things we may lose within this lifetime.’
The Instagram post that left Israel Folau’s rugby union career in tatters
He said would ‘absolutely’ do it all over again and that God had prepared him for the recent tumultuous months and the lawsuit he’s currently pursuing.
Folau warned the crowd to ‘be careful what they wished for as ‘God can give it to you.’
‘It’s very important that you’re ready because I can guarantee you that it’s happened to me now, but it’s certainly going to happen to many other people sitting in this room now,’ he said.
‘You might not think it could happen to you, it it possibly could.’
Folau admitted his sacking by Rugby Australia was a huge surprise and denied he received an official warning and had a clause written into his contract extension after sharing a similar homophobic post last year.
‘I never had a special social media clause within my contract,’ Folau said.
‘I had a standard contract, the same as every other player.’
‘Before I even posted up the post, it never cross my mind that I would get fired from my job.’
Israel Folau still has many supporters, despite being sacked for his controversial views
While he admitted the last five months had been ‘extremely hard’, he went to bed each night with a peaceful heart.
‘I had purpose in my heart that I would stand up for the truth regardless of what I might lose in life,’ he said.
NSW Liberal MP and anti-abortion campaigner Tanya Davies and ACL managing director Martyn Iles also addressed the conference attended by 1,000 devout Christians.
Folau is suing Rugby Australia for unlawfully terminating his contract because of his Christian beliefs.
The ACL raised $2.2 million from crowdfunding for Folau’s legal case after his GoFundMe page was taken down.
Folau told the room he knew the post would be offensive but would ‘absolutely’ do it again
Folau is the first Australian athlete to be sacked for expressing their religious beliefs.
He has played 73 Tests for the Wallabies and became Super Rugby’s all-time leading try-scorer earlier this year.
Folau’s career kicked off in rugby league, where he played 91 NRL games, five Origin games for Queensland and represented Australia on eight occasions.
He also played 13 games for AFL club GWS Giants in 2011-12.
Folau is suing Rugby Australia for unlawfully terminating his contract over his Christian views