Israel Folau and Rugby Australia settle out of court

Israel Folau and Rugby Australia have reached a confidential settlement, avoiding a courtroom battle over his sacking for controversial social media posts.

A joint statement was released today by Rugby Australia and Folau.

“Rugby Australia acknowledges and apologises for any hurt or harm caused to the Folaus.”

“The Social Media Post reflected Mr Folau’s genuinely held religious beliefs, and Mr Folau did not intend to harm or offend any person when he uploaded the Social Media Post,” the statement begins.

“Mr Folau wants all Australians to know that he does not condone discrimination of any kind against any person on the grounds of their sexuality and that he shares Rugby Australia’s commitment to inclusiveness and diversity.

“Rugby Australia and NSW Rugby do not in any way agree with the content of the Social Media Post. Inclusiveness is one of Rugby’s core values and it welcomes all people to the game, including all members of the LGBTI community.

“While it was not Rugby Australia’s intention, Rugby Australia acknowledges and apologises for any hurt or harm caused to the Folaus.”

Michael Kellahan, executive director of Christian legal think-tank Freedom for Faith, said the settlement was not a “test case” for religious freedom laws.

“While we welcome news of the settlement and the apology from Rugby Australia, this case did expose how controversial and uncertain the legal protections for freedom of belief and speech are. We will not have a test case that could clarify the law. The Religious Discrimination Bill therefore must clarify the rights for all involved.”

Australian Christian Lobby created an online fund for Israel Folau’s legal fees that raised more than $2 million from public donations.

ACL managing director Martyn Iles posted on social media about the “incredible” settlement between Rugby Australia and Folau.

Iles thanked supporters for praying and encouraged them to “please keep all parties in your prayers as the dust settles”.

“The case changed the conversation on religious freedom, leading to a “Folau clause” in the current Religious Discrimination Bill,” wrote Iles.

“It also was the means by which the gospel was spread through mainstream media right around the country.”

The ramifications of and fall out from the Folau/Rugby Australia settlement will continue to emerge.

One question already being asked by Christian commentator Nathan Campbell is “what happens to the $2 million the ACL raised for Folau’s legal costs now that Folau has settled and won’t be a religious freedom test case?”

UPDATE: Eternity News put Campbell’s question to ACL and Iles responded: “Donors who gave to the Folau campaign will be contacted in due course and are entitled to refunds on a pro-rata basis, in accordance with our original commitment.”