Folau affair: the four sides of the square of foolishness

Israel Folau. Photo: ODT files
Israel Folau. Photo: ODT files
In an odd way, it's been a privilege to watch, mouth agape, the lunatic unfolding of the Israel Folau affair, writes John Lapsley.

Through the asylum's peepholes, we've seen the latest sitting of the Modern Court of Public Opinion. Here, a body of kangaroo courtiers tweet, convict and then sentence felons on charges of wrong thinking. (There are rumours many Thought Criminals are sent to Old White Men camps. They're safe there for ethical reasons. Gassing them may ruin the chances of reaching carbon emission targets.)

What's made the Folau case so choice is its four main combatants have all been so stupidly one-eyed, and so destructively correct. You wouldn't read about it. Except you do.

The first, the football legend, posted his biblical text reminding us thieves, idolators, homosexuals, et al were bound for hell. You've likely heard the chuckling majority (remember them?) remark: "Going by Israel's list, I'll burn - guilty on at least three counts.''

They'd rate Folau about as threatening as the Mormon who knocks on your door bearing pamphlets for your godless rubbish bin. Folau is guilty of the same beliefs as our grandparents, and because his concept of hell seems childish to today's rational mind, he's surely as frightening as standing in The Naughty Corner?

The LGBTQ+ leadership employs about as many Christian fundamentalists as people with a sense of humour. So Folau may not have realised mentioning hellfire would create so much terror. Still, he should have guessed that failing to delete homosexuals from the sinners' list would find him accused of increasing youth suicide - and also pose problems with his Australian Rugby Union contract. So - silly him.

Practical people will rattle contract law and say if Folau signed a ``shut up about religion'' clause, then it's clear-cut - he should be booted. But should employment contracts move up from defining tea breaks, to preventing staff from spouting religion?

And - could it just be that a moral man may wake up one sunny morning, and decide saving souls matters more than contracts? Folau is honoured by Pasifika team-mates who share his beliefs, but aren't quite brave enough to express them. Coming out of the cupboard is becoming riskier for Christians than gays.

If Folau's naivete forms the first side of the square of foolishness, the second belongs to the Perpetually Offended, who this time went several steps too far. These people won't discern between mild and serious offence, and have no truck with others' rights to different beliefs.

Personally, I despise the bullying of LGBTQ+ people as much as I despise their leaders' bullying of straight society. I'm as for gay marriage as I'm for its opponents' rights to speak their narrow minds.

And the Regressive (sorry, "Progressive'') Left, which blackmails government and corporates into sacking the incorrect? Well perhaps their cruel humbug is no worse than the religious networks who once surreptitiously blackballed Jews and Catholics from public jobs.

The Progressives struck with their "defeat them via officialdom'' tactic when they targeted the Go Fund Me website, which had a strongly performing donations page for Folau's legal fees. This is where it became truly, deeply, sickening. Folau was accused of siphoning money from causes like sick patients wanting cancer treatments. Go Fund Me retro-discovered that while it was noble to raise funds for a Green senator's libel case, Folau's cause breached its terms.

The angry public reaction was a lesson in numbers. When a Christian lobby group opened an alternative Folau page, his support now tripled. They hit the pause button when it smashed $2million inside 36 hours.

Now to the third leg of the Folau idiocies - the sponsor, Qantas, which apparently believes it bought the right to dictate the behaviour of all the team's men when it sponsored the "The Qantas Wallabies''. It is a wildly impractical ambition. There are 34 players in the squad. Seven Wallabies - present or immediately past - have been arrested on criminal charges, from assault and drunk driving, to burglary and cocaine offences. It becomes enticingly simple to argue Qantas believes criminal offences aren't as serious as thought offences.

But the 34 also highlight the impracticality of sponsors imposing cultural behaviours on large, diverse teams. They can only dictate easily to individuals - Gillette and Gatorade ran into no flak whatever in sacking Tiger Woods for morality reasons. For its pains Qantas may now face charges of inciting the Australian Rugby Union to breach its contract with Folau.

Netball had the sense to look at its feet when its ANZ and HCF sponsors suggested disciplining Silver Fern Maria Folau after she'd supported her husband. The ARU, the fourth side of this square of foolishness, will be wishing it had done the same.

John Lapsley is an Arrowtown writer.



Hell is like a waiting room for judgement. A bit like waiting for a Court appearance, or dental appointment etc. Many know that waiting can be torturous.

On the one hand it is important to not answer back when fools act, in case of being as foolish as them, but sometimes fools need to be reacted to in case they become wise in their own eyes. Folau's case is of one acting foolish in response to society being foolish.