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Why the Folau case is now about banning the Bible

A journalistic scoop is a game changer

Just like a game of Rugby Union, the Folau Affair turns out to have two halves, with the revelation by News Corp journalist Miranda Devine that Raelene Castle (head of Rugby Australia) believed an accurate Bible quote would have been grounds for sacking the footballer.

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“[Raelene Castle] admits Folau was sacked because she views parts of the Bible as akin to hate speech.” – Miranda Devine

“You don’t have to agree with Israel Folau – and I don’t – to defend his right to quote the Bible without being sacked,” columnist Devine tells Eternity. “Castle’s comments in his code of conduct hearing are a game-changer because she admitted that it is the Bible itself which is the problem.

“She admits Folau was sacked because she views parts of the Bible as akin to hate speech.”

A telling exchange between Castle and John West QC – head of the Rugby Australia code of conduct panel convened to discipline Folau – was released by Devine in The Sunday Telegraph.

“West asked Castle: ‘What if Mr Folau had photocopied passages from the Bible and simply posted that on his social media pages, would that have caused a problem for you?’

“Castle replied: ‘I think it depends on which ones – which pages he photocopied.’

“West asked: ‘If he’d photocopied the passages that are referred to in the posts, would that have caused a problem for you?’

“‘Yes it would have,’ Castle said.”

“The Scriptures are not meant to make me feel comfortable.” – Melissa Lipsett

In response, Bible Society Australia’s acting CEO Melissa Lipsett issued a statement: “Bible Society Australia does not support or reject Mr Folau’s decision to use the Bible in this manner. However, we are concerned by suggestions that even photocopying the same passage from the Bible would have been equally a problem …”

“The Scriptures are not meant to make me feel comfortable. The Bible challenges the wealthy. The proud. The greedy. The unjust. Those who gossip. Who spread untruths. The powerful who ignore the needs of the powerless. It challenges governments and rulers who ignore God at their peril. And it even discusses sexual morality.

“The Bible makes clear that all of us – that is every single person on this planet – are imperfect! We all fall short of the glory of God. Does that shock you? It doesn’t shock me. I know how imperfect I am!”

The broadening of the Folau issue occurs as a draft of the religious discrimination act (or similar title) has been circulated to the Coalition party MPs, and the Attorney-General Christian Porter holds meeting with them.

“’I don’t think there is a risk of persecution – Christians need to calm down.’

Eternity understands that Tim Costello, the new senior fellow of the Centre for Public Christianity, was not aware of the Devine expose before he made his comments to The Guardian this week saying “he did not see any evidence of the persecution of Christians in Australia, and said they needed to ‘suck it up’, just like Jesus.”

“I don’t think there is a risk of persecution – Christians need to calm down,” Costello told The Guardian.

“’I would say to Christians, ‘If you want to see persecution, let me take you to places where there is persecution of Christians and other religious groups – let me take you to Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, and I will show you persecution.'”

Responding to the news of Devine’s revelations, Costello told Eternity that “I have been consistently saying we must have the right to quote [the] Bible even if it offends. But in winning the battle – a real issue [to be able] to quote Scripture – we are losing the war.”

“Religious freedom is now baked into the cultural mind as just our right to condemn [homosexual people]?”

“The problem is not persecution. Tim is so, so right.” – Stephen McAlpine

Conservative Christians have responded to The Guardian piece. Perth blogger Stephen McAlpine’s post, “Why CPX’s Tim Costello is Dead Right (and Dead Wrong)“, provides a typically well-thought-out response.

“Tim Costello is dead right.  We’re not being persecuted like Christians around the world and we need to suck it up. I’ve said that for a while now. We’re not getting the level of sheer violence and terror that Christians experience around the globe on a daily basis.”

But he adds “The issue in Australia, is not whether Christians are being persecuted like they are in Pakistan. No one for one moment believes that to be the case.

“The problem is not persecution. Tim is so, so right. The problem is privatisation; the withdrawal of Christianity from the public square; either of its own volition, or because it’s told to leave it at home by a socially woke workplace that is equally and oppositely religious in another direction.”

McAlpine has pointed out that the hard yards for Australian Christians are not walked by ministers and other full-time religious figures but for those in the ordinary workforce. (Eternity published his post here.)

To find examples of where Christians have got in to trouble in secular Australia, visit the Human Rights Law Alliance (HRLA) website. This is a group associated with the Australian Christian Lobby, but rather than featuring stories by some cabal of political activists, the case studies featured by HRLA are of ordinary Christians doing ordinary things – and then there’s Folau as well.

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