Israel Folau: Australia rugby player investigated for new anti-gay remarks after saying ‘Hell awaits homosexuals’

The 73-cap Australia international was reminded of his ‘obligation to use social media in a respectful way’ last year following a homophobic outburst but has posted a new picture on Instagram hitting out at various groups

Jack de Menezes
Wednesday 10 April 2019 12:03 BST
Israel Folau: Australia rugby player investigated for new anti-gay remarks after saying ‘Hell awaits homosexuals’

Israel Folau is being investigated by Rugby Australia’s integrity unit after resuming his anti-gay tirade on social media, claiming “Hell awaits you” to anyone who identifies as homosexual in comments that have been labelled “unacceptable” by his employers.

The 73-cap Australia international was last year warned for making homophobic comments on social media, which he explained were based on his religious beliefs. Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle elected not to discipline the full-back despite a number of sponsors threatening to walk away from the national team due to his comments, but she did remind him of his “obligation to use social media in a respectful way”.

But Folau now faces the wrath of RA after issuing a fresh attack on homosexual people among other groups, including “drunks”, “liars” and “atheists” in an Instagram post that calls for people to “Repent” as “Only Jesus Saves”.

The image, which was posted on Wednesday night in Australia, added the caption: “Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these , adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 KJV.”

Rugby Australia issued a statement on Wednesday to condemn his actions and confirm that an investigation is underway.

An RA statement read: “Rugby Australia is aware of a post made by Israel Folau on his Instagram account this afternoon.

“The content within the post is unacceptable. It does not represent the values of the sport and is disrespectful to members of the rugby community.

“The Rugby Australia integrity (unit) has been engaged on the matter tonight (Wednesday).”

The post was the second controversial social media outburst by Folau on Wednesday, as he also used Twitter to attack the gender birth certificate debate following Tasmania’s decision to become Australia’s first jurisdiction that allows gender to be optional at birth.

"The devil has blinded so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways. Turn to Jesus Christ who will set you free," he posted.

The former rugby league and Australian Football League player has previously expressed his opposition to same-sex marriage by claiming gay people would go to hell, which led to a fierce backlash against the New South Wales Waratahs player.

The 30-year-old, who last weekend broke the all-time record for tries scored in Super Rugby with his 60th try in six years, had not posted anything on his Instagram account since early February before Wednesday’s anti-gay outburst, and he could now face disciplinary action by RA following his previous reminder to use his accounts in a “respectful way”.

Folau, an active member of the Assemblies of God fellowship and devout Christian, has previously denied that he is bigoted of homophobic, but offered to walk away from his contract with the Australian governing body last year if “the situation had become untenable”.

But despite pressure from sponsors, no disciplinary action was taken, and he signed a long-term extension in October 2018 that will run until the end of the 2022 season. Main Wallabies sponsor Qantas threatened to sever their ties with the national team over the matter, while Land Rover took back a sponsored vehicle that had been given to the Waratahs back.

Folau is expected to feature in this year's Rugby World Cup (Getty)

Any disciplinary action could impact Folau’s participation in the upcoming Rugby Championship, which begins with a shorter six-match format in July involving Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina, as well as this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan. If found to be a serious breach of contract, RA could choose to tear up Folau’s contract and sack him little more than five months before the start of the Rugby World Cup.

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