Players' union to conduct 'faith' review in wake of Folau sacking

by Reuters
Tuesday, 21 May 2019 10:05 GMT
Israel Folau had his contract terminated for a social media post that said Hell awaits gay people, upsetting former players who share his conservative Christian beliefs

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA) will convene a “faith review” to establish clearer guidelines for religious expression in the wake of Israel Folau’s sacking.

Former Wallabies fullback Folau, a fundamentalist Christian, had his four-year contract terminated last week for a social media post that said hell awaits “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers” and others.

Rugby Australia’s hard-line stance angered conservative Christians in Australia and upset some of Folau’s former Wallabies team mates, who share his Pacific islands heritage and religious beliefs.

RUPA said in a statement on Tuesday that RA “had not yet provided any clear or specific parameters” to players as to the “acceptable” expression of their faith and beliefs.

“To address this, RUPA will immediately establish and undertake an Expression of Faith & Beliefs Review alongside its players, incorporating advice from those with and without strong religious beliefs,” the statement said.

“We will also invite both a Rugby Australia and a Super Rugby representative to participate in this RUPA-led Review, and we wholeheartedly urge them to take us up on this offer of collaboration.”

RUPA said it aimed to hold the first meeting of a review committee following the conclusion of the Super Rugby and World Rugby Sevens Series seasons next month.

Folau’s case triggered debate about religious freedom in Australia and the rights of employers to control employees outside of the workplace.

A number of Wallabies players, including Queensland Reds captain Samu Kerevi, “liked” Folau’s controversial post and regularly quote scripture on social media.

Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou wrote on social media that all Pacific islands players “might as well” be sacked for their religious beliefs after Kerevi was erroneously reported to have been forced to apologise for religious comments.

RA chief executive Raelene Castle said on Friday that the governing body was “completely supportive” of players expressing their religion in a “respectful” way.

“As long as they continue to express them in a respectful way we will continue to support them.”

Folau waived his right to appeal his sacking on Monday, saying he had “no confidence” in RA’s process.

However, he raised the prospect of fighting his termination in court, saying he was considering “all potential avenues” and that the “potential impact” of RA’s decision on his reputation and career was substantial.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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