Will Israel Folau play persecution card following hell-for-gays backlash?


That's what Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle told media today after her meeting with star player Israel Folau over his recent comments that God's plan for gay people was "hell".

His comments were described as "very disappointing" by Qantas airlines, a major sponsor of Rugby Australia, while worldwide referee Nigel Owens, who came out as gay in 2007, said such comments could contribute to young people taking their own lives.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Castle described the meeting as 'very open, very calm and very honest'.

"This is a hard issue when you think you're trying to combine religious beliefs, freedom of speech, inclusion, respect and the use of social media", she said. 'When [athletes] use public platforms they need to think about the implications of a comment they make.

'But RA has got a policy of inclusion and using social media with respect.

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Waratahs player Israel Folau (14) at round 5 of the Super Rugby between Waratahs and Rebels at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on March 18, 2018.

Asked if Folau had made any commitment to using social media platforms in a more respectful manner, Castle said: "Israel has gone away to think about that, because for him, he's proud of what he is and what he stands for, so he wants to make sure that we are not asking him to compromise those beliefs".

Castle said RA were in negotiations with Folau but anticipated competition for his services.

Folau caused an uproar last week when he said gay people were destined for hell "unless they repent of their sins and turn to God".

In a statement last week, a Qantas spokesperson condemned Folau's comments.

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Over the weekend, Folau stoked even more controversy by tweeting a Bible verse that painted him as the victim in the situation.

Anglican minister Peter Kurti, who heads up the religious and civil society program for the Centre for Independent Studies, told The Australian while he personally did not share Folau's views, he should not be stopped from expressing them due to corporate pressure.

Folau said a year ago he would not support legislation allowing gay marriage during a nationwide plebiscite over the issue.

"We would really like him to stay in rugby", she said.

Off contract at the end of the year, three-times John Eales Medallist Folau has seemingly contravened RA's inclusion policy.

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Rugby Australia's inclusion policy specifically regulates homophobia in the sport.