Israel Folau and the Crush of Corporate Activism

25 June 2019

3.8 MINS

The plot thickens daily for former rugby superstar Israel Folau.

Back in April, Rugby Australia, under pressure from its major sponsor Qantas, sacked him for posting a paraphrased Bible verse on Instagram. In May, a tribunal upheld the decision, allowing Izzy’s $4 million contract to be officially torn up.

Now in June, GoFundMe has discovered the power of corporate activism too. Using the fund-raising site, Israel had reached out to likeminded Australians who wanted to support him in his court appeal for religious freedom. $700,000 had been donated to his cause before GoFundMe suddenly pulled his page from their platform.

The reason GoFundMe gave for their decision was “violation of its terms of service”. Exactly which terms Israel has violated is still unclear.

Some suggest it’s because his fund somehow promoted harassment or vilification. But clearly this can’t be the case. Anti-Folau campaigns abound on the website, including the “Israel is a knob cause”, the “F*** Israel Folau Foundation” and others raising funds for his ‘mental health issues’ or even for a rainbow sex toy to gag him with.

Others suggest that Folau’s campaign was canned because his was a legal fund. But this can’t be the reasoning either, given that GoFundMe continues to allow around 17,000 other legal campaigns on their site. This includes the fund for the fabled ‘Eggboy’ who (deserved or not) assaulted a sitting Commonwealth senator.

It seems increasingly clear that what GoFundMe has an issue with—and what Qantas and Rugby Australia before them take issue with—is the historic teachings of Christianity.

Corporate activism is a growing phenomenon. Companies are using their clout to crush any opinion they don’t like. And by all means, they’re free to: they’re private enterprises, and this is a free country.

But in doing so, they’re creating a new set of marginalised minorities. By including some groups, these corporations exclude others. They preach tolerance but practice intolerance. And the gentle giant Folau—a Pacific Islander who counts Christianity as core to his identity—is only their latest victim.

Folau’s fight is far from over. The Australian reports that GoFundMe’s decision has only hardened Israel’s resolve to have his day in court. And the 10,000 donors to his cause along with those who missed the chance to chip in are finding other online avenues to support him.

As the dust settles on this latest development, there are three questions that every Aussie Christian can be reflecting on.


  1. Do You Really Believe?

The entire Israel Folau saga boils down to this: he lost his job for posting a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. This now infamous passage says:

“Don’t you realise that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.

“Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

It’s hard to find a crisper announcement of the Gospel in all of Scripture than the one Israel posted. So the question for every Christian is, do you really believe the Bible?

Notice that the question isn’t “Would you post this verse on your own social media account?” Certainly, there are more winsome ways to reach out to a secular world. Still, the question remains, do you actually believe what this verse says?

  1. Can You Still Love?

It’s easy in a climate like this for us Christians to see ourselves only as an oppressed subculture. Yes, this is becoming increasingly true. But the early church had it far worse than we do, and still they found a way to love.

They were radical not only in their unwavering commitment to truth, but also in their unwavering commitment to love. Love your enemy, turn the other cheek, and bless those who persecute you are words for us today as much as they were for early believers.

21st century Christians are sobering up to the realisation that we live in a modern-day Babylon.

This makes the story of the Babylonians exile a great source of wisdom for us today. So consider the words that Jeremiah wrote to the Jewish exiles in Babylon:

“Work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

God isn’t calling us to start a revolt. He wants us to work and pray for the peace and prosperity of Australia. As Timothy Keller puts it, God calls us to be a “counter-culture for the common good”.

  1. Will You Speak Out?

Keep in mind though that this doesn’t mean we just fall in line with what the mainstream culture demands of us.

If we truly long for peace and prosperity in Australia, then surely we want to see our civilisation’s hard-won freedoms continue to flourish.

Israel Folau lost his job for being a Christian: for believing and expressing a central Christian conviction. If someone with a profile as high as Izzy’s can be fired for his faith, anyone can. The only difference is that everyday religious people won’t have any fame to leverage for their cause.

Now is the opportune time for Christians to speak out.

For some, this might mean swallowing our pride. It’s not sexy today to stand for ‘conservative’ causes—especially not Christian ones. Political bias, like political silence, is tough to shake.

But if we truly believe in freedom for all to practice their faith, then speaking up now is the right thing to do.

So will you?

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  1. Jean Antill 25 June 2019 at 7:03 pm - Reply

    I am on fb everyday versing the Word and that each and everyone of us will stand in judgement before God after death. So Israel’s post states exactly that only he lists the sinful ways but it applies to us all who are sinners from birth and are called to repent.

    I spoke in one of my posts about the comradeship of those who fought in WW1 & WE ll and what peace meant to those fighting as Australians ( ALL those who fought for democracy) . That seems to have now gone totally unrecognised so that minority groups supported by Athiests etc are using every option they can to stifle our beliefs.

    Well no l will not be stifled. I will sing praise to my God 24×7 and no one will stop me. Israel is just the top of this evil iceberg and it will go even deeper and that is still unseen. So yes let’s stand up for Ezxy. Let’s stand up for loving Jesus Christ and in doing do be bold and refuse to deny our Father God. Let’s be faithful and not fearful. Let’s love those as Jesus asked but encourage sinners to repent.

    Ezzy God has not foresaken you and he knows what you can bare so just be the Ezzy we love and the great disciple of God’s Son Jesus Christ who we love dearly. I am game to quote the scriptures and if they offend then they can deal with it! Put me in jail as l will still love my faith and Jesus Christ. I am a believer and will die a believer. Thank you all who have supported Ezzy as many are so opposed and really do not appreciate this is not about wealth but our freedom to love our God. Our freedom
    to speak freely of this love.

    We live today in a society that is trying to kill our beliefs and our love of Jesus Christ. ????The devil thinks he is winning but little does he know he can never win! ????. Ever!!!! ????????????????✝️✝️

    • Libby 28 June 2019 at 1:25 pm - Reply

      Amen to that, little miss Jean. Well said!

  2. Marion Dingwall 28 June 2019 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    So very well said, Kurt, and well balanced. Yes I totally agree that we respond with love, and yes I will pray for Australia, to come back to her Christian Heritage, and yes I will speak out. We bless you in all you are doing, the “God Fund Me” demonstrates that our God is able to do exceedingly above all we can ask and think.”

  3. Samuel 28 June 2019 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    Well presented report.

  4. Alan Panambalans 28 June 2019 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    Right is Might! Fight for the Right! God is with us!

  5. Marion Bennett 30 June 2019 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    Well said Kurt!

    Two things I would venture to add…
    Israel is even being accused by some Christians, as well as non-Christians, of being loveless in his warning of hell. Would these people also accuse the Lord Jesus, (who is LOVE), of being loveless, when he warned of the prospect of hell more than anyone else in all the Scriptures?

    Luke 6:28…pray for those who persecute us and despitefully use us!

  6. Maree & Ray Chapman 1 July 2019 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    I have seen sad things among the general populace in australia during recent years.I do believe the saddest is the non belief in our Father God The Lord Jesus and the rejection of The Holy Spirit. As Jesus cried as He died for each of us…forgive them Father they know not what they do….more than ever in society today they know not what they do. So many no longer know the difference between right and wrong and many have said this more eloquently than I can. We do pray daily for our nation and of course we don’t wonder what is ahead…it is very clear in the last book of the Bible. Thank God it is still available to be read in Australia and is a book of love and how to access and give that love. And what exactly love is. I pray that the day will soon come when our prayers for all in our nation will be answered and not one be lost.

  7. Anna Soh 1 July 2019 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    I do pray for those who persecute Israel as for them to find their way back to God is going to be a greater victory than Israel winning this court battle on behalf of all Australians to retain their freedom of religion and speech!

  8. […] from the Bible, whether such quoting can ever be restricted to a private audience, and the issue of corporate pressure by companies that may be involved in financial support. These issues have been explored by many […]

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