Rugby star Israel Folau’s punishment for sharing a Bible verse on Instagram has been finalized by a three-person panel: he has been sacked. Rugby Australia announced the final decision Friday, noting that it had been an “extremely challenging period” for the sporting world.
“Rugby Australia did not choose to be in the situation, but Rugby Australia’s position remains that Israel, through his actions, left us with no choice but to pursue the course of action resulting in today’s outcome,” RA chief executive Raelene Castle said following the ruling.
She added that “we need to stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork.”
The post, which is still live on Folau’s page, declares “WARNING,” before listing a number of sins which must be repented of, pending eternal judgment.
Referencing 1 Corinthians 6:9, the graphic lists “Drunks, homosexuals, drunks, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters,” before imploring “HELL AWAITS YOU,” and “REPENT! ONLY JESUS SAVES.”
While Folau’s contract was terminated in April, a panel was tasked with deciding his fate after the sportsman launched an appeal against the decision.
He now has 72 hours to appeal once again, which would trigger a second code of conduct hearing with a fresh panel. Folau could also try to elevate his case to Australia’s Supreme Court.
‘Duty to share God’s word’
While Folau said he was “deeply saddened” by Rugby Australia’s final decision, he insisted that it was his “duty as a Christian to share God’s word.”
“As Australians, we are born with certain rights, including the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of expression,” he said, according to the BBC. “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 added.
Speaking to his congregation in Sydney, Israel declared that, “it is always the will of God that comes first.”
Old Coach Jumps to Folau’s Defense
Earlier this month, former Australia coach Alan Jones launched into an impassioned defense of Folau, noting that the shocking decisions “prompt you to wonder what kind of society we’re living in.”
“The Australian people won’t accept this,” he added, according to MSN. “This is not the Australia our veterans fought for and we’re going to have to take our country back by argument and by the democratic and peaceful process — not by hate and revenge or vilification and intimidation.”
Jones noted that “if we’re not free to articulate our religious beliefs and quote from the Bible, and if we’re not free to speak for fear that someone affects a hurt or is part of the offense industry, if that’s where we’ve reached in this country, we’ve reached a dark place and we are all at risk.”
The former coach and broadcaster did note, however, that Folau appears to be in good form following the controversy.
“I’ve just had a note from Israel, he won’t mind if I’m sharing it with you because I said to him, ‘Hold your head up,’” Jones said. “He said, ‘Alan, I’m at peace, mate. My head is held high.’”