Fierce reaction to GoFundMe’s move
ISRAEL Folau only needed to look at the social media accounts of GoFundMe to have an indication of how his cause would be viewed.
Flying next to the fundraising organisation's handle is the rainbow flag.
So it shouldn't have come as a surprise when Folau's online campaign to raise money for his legal fight against Rugby Australia came to a momentary halt on Monday morning.
GoFundMe Australia removed Folau's page - which had raised more than $750,000 of a $3 million target - and pledged to issue refunds to all of the more than 7000 donors.
While many relished in the result, others feared the heavy-handed response could work in Folau's favour.
Others encouraged Folau to continue to fight. "GoFundMe bends a knee to the LBG mob and joins the pack attack on Folau," columnist Lawrence Money tweeted. "He should set up his own fund. He'd collect even more after this."
The Daily Telegraph columnist Miranda Devine added: "The haters and Christophobes have forced Israel Folau's church into hiding and GoFundMe appears to have closed his account, in the usual illiberal way of woke corporates. Did you know GoFundMe takes 5 per cent of donations? So it's reaped $40,000 from Folau."
GoFundMe's Australian manager Nicola Britton released a statement saying "after a routine period of evaluation, we have concluded that this campaign violates our terms of service".
Ms Britton said GoFundMe was committed to the "fight for equality" for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity.
"While we welcome GoFundMes engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion," she said.
"In the days since Mr Folau's campaign launched, more than one million dollars have been donated to hundreds of other campaigns, large and small, acrossAustralia. Those acts of kindness are the heart of GoFundMe.
"Our platform exists to help people help others. We look forward to helping more Australians fundraise for causes they care about in the coming months and years."
But Folau has no shortage of defenders. Liberal National Party Senator James McGrath reacted swiftly to GoFundMe's decision on Monday.
"The true test of a democratic nation is not how we treat those with whom we agree but how we treat the rights of those with whom we disagree," he said.
"Freedom of speech is timeless and should not be restricted by the leftist gormless oxygen thieves of GoFundMe."
Folau launched the campaign on Friday. He asked for support to fund his legal battle against Rugby Australia, which terminated his $4 million contract in May after a post he made on social media was deemed homophobic. It followed a similar incident last year.
His April post on Instagram said: "WARNING Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves, Atheists, Idolaters HELL AWAITS YOU Repent! Only Jesus Saves."
Folau has launched legal proceedings with the Fair Work Commission against Rugby Australia and is seeking up to $10 million in damages.
The former Wallaby and committed Christian thanked donors over the weekend, and said he was "unsurprised" by criticism from RA and others over his decision to set up the page.
"The money that is donated will be used to fund my legal battle, which could take years. While the attacks against me have shown I have a big fight on my hands, I will stand strong," Folau wrote on social media. "Your support and my faith in Jesus Christ will give me strength."