Israel Folau has set up a GoFundMe page and requested financial assistance from his supporters in order to help with his legal battle against Rugby Australia.
Dual-code international Folau saw his playing contract terminated by the governing body last month, following a social media post in which he said homosexuals were destined for hell unless they repented their sins.
The 30-year-old, who had previously been warned about similar posts, was found to have committed a high-level breach of Rugby Australia’s professional players’ code of conduct.
Folau has since launched legal action against Rugby Australia and claims he is being denied freedom of religion.
In a video posted to YouTube on Thursday, he said: “The Christian faith has always been a part of my life and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God’s word. Rugby Australia tore up my employment contract for doing just that, and that’s wrong. Every Australian should be able to practice their religion without fear of discrimination in the workplace.
“It was an honour and a privilege to go on to represent Australia on the international stage. Unfortunately, because of my religious beliefs, it looks like I will not be given the opportunity to represent Australia again. I believe that upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club and country.”
After revealing he and his wife Maria have so far spent “over 100,000 Australian dollars in legal fees”, Folau pointed to the significant cost that lies ahead and added: “If you want to join this journey with me, to fight for the right to freedom of religion, please donate.”
In a statement following Folau’s sacking, Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle firmly rejected the argument players are being denied the opportunity to practice their religion.
“I’ve communicated directly with the players to make it clear that Rugby Australia fully supports their right to their own beliefs and nothing that has happened changes that,” said Castle.
“But when we are talking about inclusiveness in our game, we’re talking about respecting differences as well.
“People need to feel safe and welcomed in our game regardless of their gender, race, background, religion, or sexuality.”
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