Israel Folau will not be punished for a social media post in which he suggested homosexuals would go to “hell” unless they “repent their sins and turn to God”.
The Wallabies and Waratahs star made the controversial remark in a comment posted on Instagram last week, leading to widespread criticism.
But Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle confirmed on Tuesday that Folau – who is out of contract at the end of 2018 – will not be sanctioned, describing the player as a “strong role model”.
“This is a difficult issue when you think you’re trying to combine religious beliefs, freedom of speech, inclusion, respect and the use of social media,” Castle said.
“When you try and bring all those things together, that’s a very difficult place for this to be, and interestingly, I know there’ll be a lot of other sports out there looking to see how this plays out, to see how we work though this particular issue.
“We are in a negotiation with Israel to extend [his contract] and we would really like him to stay in rugby, that’s hugely important to us.
“He is a great player, he has delivered some great outcomes for us and has been a really strong role model in the Pacific Islander community and we would like to see he stays in rugby.”
— Israel Folau (@IzzyFolau) April 8, 2018
Castle said devout Christian Folau – who is sidelined with a hamstring injury – has been advised to take care when using social media.
“Israel’s gone away to think about that because for him, he’s proud of what he is and what he stands for, so he wants to make sure that we are not asking him to compromise his beliefs,” Castle said.
“But at the same time, very much we explained to him that this is challenging for us and any comment he makes – and he doesn’t want to be disrespectful or offend people – but how can he find a way that makes sure he’s not disrespectful but it doesn’t compromise his own personal beliefs.”
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