There’s a big problem brewing down under.
Free speech. Religious liberty. Political correctness. Employees’ rights. Employers’ rights. Contract law. If those are just a few of the spokes on the spinning wheel, picture a monkey wrench being shoved right into it. Yep. It’s a wreck.
According to a Wall Street Journal article by Rhiannon Hoyle (Monday, July 1, 2019), Rugby Australia has fired one of the most famous sports figures in Australia and shredded his multimillion-dollar contract.
Why? Because Israel Folau, a Christian, “posted on Instagram in April that gay people, adulterers and atheists were living in sin and would go to hell unless they repented.” And he has refused to take down the post.
Rugby Australia says that Folau knew that any player can be dismissed for breaching its code of conduct which includes “respectful use of social media.” They say he knew the rule going in and obviously violated it. Folau says he was “expressing religious beliefs” and that the law prohibits “dismissing an employee on the basis of religion.” Thus far, mediation has failed.
I’m guessing that the majority of Australian rugby fans wish the whole mess would go away and they could get on with watching their teams pass, kick, punt, or whatever you do with rugby balls or thingamajigs or whatever they play with.
Anyway, it’s an almost perfect storm down under. Questions abound.
It might be as simple as saying, “Like it or not, X is the majority opinion on these issues in Australia these days. Privately, Mr. Folau, you can believe whatever you wish regarding politics or social issues or religion, but you are in breach of the code of conduct if you make what you know are inflammatory statements on social media. You knew this, and you signed the contract.”
Some Christians say that this is just another example of discrimination against Christians; they are pretty confident that had Folau expressed opinions echoing the more politically popular stance loudly endorsing LGBT rights, no one at Rugby Australia would have raised an eyebrow and that he could have “bashed” Christians or Jews all day long and never felt the wrath of his bosses.
Some Christians (maybe the sort who are fond of putting up billboards and signing God’s name at the bottom) say you show God’s love by telling the truth and that Folau is courageous for being willing to endure persecution.
Some say that such smacks of taking God’s name in vain and that persecution you go out of your way to bring on yourself is perhaps not all that courageous or wise or holy and that the attitude behind the words you speak is as important as the words themselves.
Some say that this particular issue is much more about contract law than religious liberty.
Some say that it really is all about religion but not the one you might think. It’s about a modern idol of choice—sports. Just look at the lavish offerings and expensive temples all dedicated to that god.
What I wonder is what Jesus would say to Israel Folau, to his detractors, and to us. I really do. He sees into hearts.
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Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.