The page GoFundMe didn’t take down
GoFundMe removed Israel Folau's fundraising page from its website for breaching its terms of service, but has allowed a similar campaign set up on behalf of a Canadian Christian preacher to remain online.
David Lynn was arrested for "disturbing the peace" and allegedly yelling "derogatory comments" about gay people in Toronto earlier this month. Pastor Lynn denies he said anything derogatory.
He has since been let out on bail, though the conditions of his release forbid him from certain LGBTQ areas and events.
A member of Pastor Lynn's church started a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe, requesting money to help with his defence, but also to potentially countersue the city and its police department.
"This is a clear and closed case and a perfect opportunity to make a statement for free speech," the page reads.
"The arrest of Pastor David Lynn and subsequent terms of his bail release preventing him from attending LGBTQ 'communities' and 'events' are unprecedented, unholy, and altogether unlawful."
That is, in principle, a similar rationale to the one Folau offered when he asked Australians for $3 million to fund his legal fight against Rugby Australia.
Yesterday GoFundMe announced it was shutting down Folau's campaign.
"After a routine period of evaluation, we have concluded that this campaign violates our terms of service," the site's Australia regional manager Nicola Britton said.
"As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity. While we welcome GoFundMe's engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion."
According to the terms and conditions on the website, users may not attempt to raise money for the legal defence of "intolerance of any kind relating to race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender or gender identity, or serious disabilities or diseases".
However, the page raising money for Pastor Lynn has been allowed to continue - a fact his church's team has noticed. In protest, it has announced it will no longer use GoFundMe.
"With your help, we have raised an adequate amount of support for the time being. If the case requires more support, we will let you know, but not through GoFundMe," it said in an update to supporters overnight.
"Due to GoFundMe's discrimination against Christians and shutting down Israel Folau's account, we will not support and no longer use GoFundMe as a mechanism of support, and we are encouraging and calling on all Christians to boycott GoFundMe permanently and use other means."
Back here, the Australian Christian Lobby has set up a fundraising page on its own website to replace the one GoFundMe removed.
At 9:15am this morning, it had already received $315,000 - not quite the $750,000 Folau had raised before GoFundMe intervened, but well on the way.
The Christian Lobby's managing director Martyn Iles has also announced it will donate $100,000 of its own money to Folau's cause.
"I have spoken to Israel Folau to let him know the Australian Christian Lobby will be donating $100,000 to his legal defence, because it's right and it sets an important legal precedent," Mr Iles said.
"I have also offered to host his online appeal for funds here on our website and he has accepted our offer. All gifts you give on this web page will be deposited into a trust account to pay for Israel Folau's legal case.
"Please give generously today to help Israel Folau stand for your religious freedom."
Another of Folau's most vocal supporters, Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, defended the sacked rugby player and slammed GoFundMe on Channel 7's Sunrise program this morning.
"What on earth were they thinking? Raising funds on a campaign for a mosque in Western Australia. They are allowing Sarah Hanson-Young to raise money for a legal battle she is involved in in South Australia. So you can go right across the country and ask why his was cancelled, except the fact that it was popular," Mr Abetz said.
He referred to two different campaigns there. The first, set up by the Muslim Charity Community, is seeking funds to help complete construction of an Islamic Centre in Gosnells, WA. Ms Hanson-Young's page is raising funds for the Greens Senator's defamation lawsuit against former colleague David Leyonhjelm.
"If they're a private company, don't they have a right to do what they want?" host Natalie Barr asked Mr Abetz.
"They don't have a right to serve the nonsense to the Australian people saying they believe in inclusivity, that's why they're excluding him," he replied.
"Every single argument they've put forward in relation to stopping him simply does not stack up ... every single argument falls flat. As a result it's clear that it's political correctness gone mad in GoFundMe."
"I went to church every Sunday of my life until I went home, so I understand the religion thing. But if you are a Christian-minded person, out of the thousands of passages in the Bible, why would you post ones that hurt other people?" Barr asked.
"It is a question of whether you believe it hurts other people," Mr Abetz said.
"Well it clearly does," she responded.
"Other people would argue that it helps people. And if you believe in free speech, that is what you allow in a community," he said.
"The simple fact is, just because somebody takes offence at something, that doesn't stop the person saying it from being allowed to say it in a country that has prided itself on free speech."
Mr Abetz claimed it was implausible that "all these people that don't believe in hell" would be offended by a post telling them they would go there.
"It was basically him expressing the Christian faith, the Christian teaching for many years, and for people to pretend that they are somehow offended stretches credulity a bit too far."