Israel Folau said while he’s “deeply saddened” by Rugby Australia’s decision to terminate his four-year contract over his opposition to same-sex marriage, he doesn’t believe his commitment to his Christian faith should stop him from playing the sport.
On Friday, a three-member panel announced that it decided to terminate the Wallabies star’s employment for what was determined to be a high-level breach of Rugby Australia’s code of conduct, the Daily Mail reports. The decision makes the devout Christian the first Australian athlete to be dismissed for expressing religious beliefs.
Folau, Super Rugby’s all-time record try-scorer, released an emotional response soon after, saying it had been a “privilege and an honor” to represent Australia and New South Wales and that he was “deeply saddened” by the decision to terminate his employment.
“As Australians, we are born with certain rights, including the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of expression,” he said. “The Christian faith has always been a part of my life and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God’s word. Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club and country.”
Folau went on to thank his wife, star netballer Maria, and others for their support, adding: “Thank you also to those who have spoken out in my defense, some of whom do not share my beliefs but have defended my right to express them.”
On Instagram, the Wallabies fullback posted Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
The controversy over Folau’s faith erupted on April 10 after he shared a scriptural message on social media 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.
He also commented on a news report about Tasmania making gender optional.
“The devil has blinded so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways. Turn to Jesus Christ who will set you free,” he declared on Twitter.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett