It’s time to for­give: Wal­la­bies cham­pion

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - JES­SICA CORTIS

World Cup-win­ning Wal­la­bies cap­tain Nick Farr-Jones has urged Rugby Aus­tralia bosses to for­give Is­rael Folau for his con­tro­ver­sial so­cial me­dia posts, say­ing the star foot­baller’s re­li­gious be­liefs should not cost him his job.

Farr-Jones, who led the Wal­la­bies to World Cup glory in 1991, has been a de­vout Chris­tian for more than three decades and said if Folau was will­ing to apol­o­gise he should be re­in­stated.

“The rea­son a guy got hung on a cross is so we could be for­given for our mis­takes,” Far­rJones told The Aus­tralian.

“I think it would be wise for Folau to come out and make a heart­felt apol­ogy and the ARU should be will­ing to rec­on­cile with him and let him con­tinue to play.”

But it seems un­likely that the star player will of­fer an olive branch to his em­ployer, with RA chief ex­ec­u­tive Rae­lene Cas­tle yes­ter­day say­ing Folau had been “un­apolo­getic” for his so­cial me­dia post — which sug­gested ho­mo­sex­u­als were des­tined for hell — when she met him last Fri­day.

Folau, 30, was yes­ter­day given 48 hours to de­cide his fu­ture af­ter RA handed him an of­fi­cial breach of con­duct no­tice.

Ms Cas­tle and NSW Rugby Union chief ex­ec­u­tive An­drew Hore said the code’s in­tegrity unit deemed that Folau’s ac­tions war­ranted ter­mi­na­tion of his four-year $4 mil­lion em­ploy­ment con­tract.

“At the end of the day, Is­rael will make his de­ci­sion on whether he chooses to ac­cept the breach no­tice. But the in­tegrity unit has rec­om­mended ter­mi­na­tion as part of that,” Ms Cas­tle said.

Folau has pre­vi­ously in­di­cated he in­tends to chal­lenge the sack­ing and told The Aus­tralian he would stand by his faith.

Wal­la­bies coach Michael Cheika yes­ter­day said Folau’s so­cial me­dia posts were not in keep­ing with the cul­ture of the Wal­la­bies, and he would not se­lect the star player in the fu­ture as a re­sult.

“Get­ting out in that dis­re­spect­ful man­ner pub­licly is not what our team’s about. When you play in the gold jersey, we rep­re­sent ev­ery­one in Aus­tra

lia,” Cheika said. Mor­gan Begg, free­dom of speech re­search fel­low at the In­sti­tute of Pub­lic Af­fairs, said RA had gone “too far” with its ten­dency to cen­sor re­li­gious free­doms. “Aus­tralia has a tra­di­tion of free­dom of speech and free­dom of re­li­gion and we are no­tably mov­ing away from that,” he said. “They’ve gone too far. If this is an ac­cepted re­sponse it shows that there’s a loss of ap­pre­ci­a­tion for those free­doms in Aus­tralian cul­ture. It’s a de­struc­tive step to take and it has a harm­ful ef­fect on re­li­gious free­doms be­cause it’s scar­ing peo­ple into si­lence.”

Ms Cas­tle said RA had been clear with Folau about the “im­pli­ca­tions of this type of post­ing” when he signed his four-year deal in Fe­bru­ary, but said there was no so­cial me­dia clause in his con­tract.

“But there was a num­ber of meet­ings — doc­u­mented meet­ings — that were put in writ­ing, both ver­bally and in writ­ing, to Is­rael about our ex­pec­ta­tions,” Ms Cas­tle said.

Si­mon Longstaff, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of The Ethics Cen­tre, said the de­ci­sion to ter­mi­nate Folau’s con­tract did not threaten his re­li­gious free­dom.

“The fun­da­men­tal ques­tion is whether Folau broke his word. It is not an ar­gu­ment of free­dom of re­li­gion,” Dr Longstaff said.

“Rugby Aus­tralia has con­sid­er­able rights — not to chal­lenge the ve­rac­ity of his re­li­gious be­liefs, but to hold him accountable to his word.”

Dr Longstaff said that even though Folau quoted the Bi­ble, they were con­sid­ered his words.

With the World Cup just six months away, the ab­sence of Folau — one of the Wal­la­bies best play­ers — will be keenly felt, ac­cord­ing to Farr-Jones.

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