Rugby Australia’s attempt to remove Israel Folau from the game is now being presented as nothing more than a matter of contract law. First determine what it was that Folau signed up for; and then simply comb through the fine print to see if there is a purely legal way of getting rid of him. It looks like a tidy solution. But it is not.
That’s because wrangling over the details of Folau’s contract completely misses the point of what’s going on here. Ethics Centre director Simon Longstaff insists the Folau issue comes down simply to breach of promise and is not about freedom of religion at all. However, that view smacks of the arcane distinctions beloved of medieval scholasticism, which pondered how many angels could pirouette on the head of a pin.
Recall that Folau, a committed Christian, bundled together a whole group of people he firmly and sincerely believes need to repent of what his reading of the bible tells him is sin. And sitting there on that list he tweeted — along with drunks, fornicators, and atheists — are LGBTQI+ people, whom Folau refers to as “homosexuals”.
It’s hard to believe that Qantas chief Alan Joyce — the very public face of corporate social engineering in Australia and a lead campaigner for marriage equality — has become worked up about those tweets (and is reportedly urging RA to take action, at a time when its Qantas sponsorship is being renegotiated) simply because he is annoyed that Folau is allegedly in breach of his legal contract.
The truth is that Folau is to be sacked because the beliefs of his particular church and faith leads him to hold views about homosexuality that conflict with the left-progressive culture in which ‘diversity’ demands that we all think the same way about sexuality and gender. And Qantas has long been at the forefront of the determined drive for ‘diversity’.
But Folau — who is now unlikely ever to see the inside of a Qantas Chairman’s Lounge — is a Christian and the son of a pastor. He is steeped in the tenets of his faith; and that faith prompts him to take a public stand on moral issues that are dear to his heart. And note that he also had tough things to say about those other categories of “sinners”.
Many Australian Christians share Folau’s views on sin; as do many Australian Muslims. In fact, all religions have something to say about the standards by which we live. At the heart of all religious belief lies the issue of our relationship with God.
Doing some things strengthens that relationship; but doing other things harms it. Theologians devote happy years of study trying to work out which actions belong on which list. And they don’t all agree with each other. But because we live in an open, liberal, and democratic society — and not a theocracy — people of all faiths and none are free to debate what faith requires.
Or at least, they were free to do so. But now the shades of night are descending on that earlier age. The freedoms we took for granted as citizens of a liberal democracy — such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of conscience — are being stripped away by militant progressives who insist we all believe and behave in the same way.
And anyone who dares transgress the new edicts of progressivism faces instant and vindictive vilification. It’s not only sexuality that’s off limits. Add to that topics such as gender identity, the family, and climate change. Freedom of speech on any of those topics is now heavily circumscribed by progressive rules — and transgressors are whacked with heavy penalties.
Australia has made great advances in protecting individuals and groups from certain forms of behavior. Anti-discrimination laws have rightly made illegal actions that exclude or demean people as they go about their daily lives. These laws sought to uphold the diversity that genuinely marks out Australia as a successful multicultural society.
But now instead of being simply a shield used to secure protections for others, ‘diversity’ has fallen into the hands of progressive identity warriors who are wielding it as a sword to impose a new moral order that demands total acceptance and compliance from everyone. Old taboos have become the new normal. There seemingly can be — and will be — no exceptions.
The fame and talent of Israel Folau has helped to bring to a head the crisis we are now facing in our culture. At stake is the genuine and vibrant diversity of a healthy democracy where differences are accepted and tolerated. But dusk is descending.
A new tyranny of tolerance is being imposed. And we should beware those who tell us we are mistaken and deluded.
Peter Kurti is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies and author of The Tyranny of Tolerance: Threats to Religious Liberty in Australia
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