Israel Folau has said that he is ready and willing to quit rugby union if that’s what “God plans” for him following his controversial latest Instagram post, which he claimed has been taken “the total opposite to how I’m sharing it”.
The Australian rugby union international faces being sacked unless he can prove “compelling mitigating factors” after posting a religion-based message on social media earlier this week, in which he claimed “Hell awaits Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves, and Atheists”.
Folau’s inclusion of homosexuals in the post was the latest in a string of anti-gay remarks, having claimed in 2017 that gay people will go to hell unless they accept God and repeating the message in April 2018 when he said they will end up in “HELL unless they repent”.
The latest episode breached the strict social media guidelines that he agreed to in the contract that he signed with Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Rugby Union last year, and led to their joint decision that they intent to terminate his contract.
But in breaking his silence on the matter, Folau stood by both his Instagram post and his beliefs, and said that he is prepared to quit the sport if he has to.
"It's obviously a decision that's in the process right now but I believe in a God that's in control of all things," Folau told the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday. "Whatever His will is, whether that's to continue playing or not, I'm more than happy to do what He wants me to do."
Asked if that means he is prepared to quit rugby, Folau said: "Absolutely. First and foremost, I live for God now. Whatever He wants me to do, I believe His plans for me are better than whatever I can think. If that's not to continue on playing, so be it.
"In saying that, obviously I love playing footy and if it goes down that path I'll definitely miss it. But my faith in Jesus Christ is what comes first."
Folau was speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald after they joined he and his wife, netball player Maria, at their weekly service at the Truth of Jesus Christ Church at Kenthurst in north-west Sydney.
During the two-hour service, there were regular mentions of Folau’s incident and claims that he had been “persecuted” for his beliefs, with one speaker praising the Australian full-back for his "boldness to stand true to his word".
Folau’s comments this week triggered a fierce backlash in the public along with potentially costing him his place at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but he answered “absolutely not” when asked whether he regretted the comments and reiterated that he stands by his belief that homosexuals are “sinners”. However, he did suggest that the way his beliefs were being perceived are not how he intends them to as he “has love towards everyone”.
Folau added: "I'll stand on what the Bible says. I share it with love. I can see the other side of the coin where people's reactions are the total opposite to how I'm sharing it.
"But in Ezekiel, chapter 33, verse 11, it says that 'God has no pleasure in the person that's living in sin' ... He's a loving God and he wants people to turn away from what they're living in and he'll give them life.
"That's the message that I'm trying to share, even though it comes across as harsh. I can't change what the word of God says."
The 30-year-old did admit that “Obviously it's a tough time” as his future hangs in the balance, but added “for me I find comfort in obviously what the Bible says. As we heard today, those that live for Christ will be persecuted for his name. So for me, [the reaction] wasn't a surprise.
"I have love towards everyone that might be saying negative things ... I choose to love them because God loves me."
Folau met with RA and the NSW Rugby Union on Friday but their position “remains unchanged” in their intention to terminate his contract. He said that he has not yet thought about taking legal action under religious discrimination if that proves to be the case, while he did not clarify if he has requested a personal hearing with the governing body – who are expected to provide an update on the board’s decision in the next week on what the next steps are.
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