Israel Folau joins new rugby team, forbidden from talking about faith

Australian rugby player Israel Folau.
Australian rugby player Israel Folau. | Instagram

Israel Folau, an Australian rugby player who's known for his outspokenness, has joined a new team but is forbidden from talking about his Christian faith.

Folau, who was ousted from his contract with Rugby Australia last year over comments he made about homosexuality and God's wrath, will now represent the Catalan Dragons, which plays in England but is based in France. 

He was fired last May after he posted on his Instagram account that Hell awaits those who practice adultery and homosexuality.

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The controversy over Folau’s faith erupted on April 10, 2019, after he shared a scriptural message that Hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, [and] idolaters” who do not repent.

“Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him,” Folau shared on Instagram, along with a series of Bible verses on sin and repentance.

The rugby player filed a lawsuit against the sporting organization, arguing he had been wrongfully terminated. He was rewarded an undisclosed sum but was not allowed to return to the Australian league.

His contract with the Catalan Dragons stipulates that he will be terminated if he makes similar comments to those that led to him being fired from Rugby Australia, which some have described as "homophobic."

Commenting on Folau's new gig, England's Super League Executive Chairman Robert Elstone said the sporting organization "deplores the homophobic comments Israel Folau has made in the past, which squarely contradict our sport's core values."

"I have sought the opinion of informed voices connected to our game, and the majority share my disappointment that one of our clubs has chosen to sign him," he said, according to The Sunday Times

"However, Super League does not have the authority to veto the registration of players and is satisfied by the due diligence carried out by The Rugby Football League."

Elstone noted that Folau has the right to work and has not been found guilty or charged with any crimes.

Folau has acknowledged the views his new employer has expressed.

"I'm a proud Christian, my beliefs are personal, my intention is not to hurt anyone and I will not be making further public comment about them," he said.

"I look forward to my return to the great game of Rugby League with the Catalans Dragons."

Folau's Instagram post that got him fired from Australian rugby is but one of his comments he has made on the subject of God's judgement. In November, as bushfires besieged parts of Australia, the rugby star suggested the destructive blazes signified divine punishment on the nation for its abortion laws and relatively recent embrace of same-sex marriage.

Folau said at the time: "Look how rapid these brushfires, these droughts, all these things have come in a short period of time, do you think it's a coincidence or not?"

His comments drew a rebuke from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, himself an evangelical Christian who has publicly opposed same-sex marriage, stressing that Folau can say whatever he wants as a free citizen "but that doesn't mean he can't have regard to the grievance [and] offence this would have caused to the people whose homes have burnt down."

Morrison went on to call Folau's comments "appallingly insensitive."

Follow Brandon Showalter on Facebook: BrandonMarkShowalterFollow Brandon Showalter on Twitter: @BrandonMShow

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