Barnaby Joyce has been slammed on social media after weighing into the ugly Israel Folau saga.
The Nationals MP took to Twitter on Friday with his take on the religious freedoms debate that’s engulfed the political and sporting landscapes.
“If we are going to support religious freedoms then start with the ARU’s approach to Israel Folau,” Joyce tweeted.
“They may not be my views but he shouldn’t be sacked because of his on how he gets to “heaven”. He wasn’t preaching violence.”
If we are going to support religious freedoms then start with the ARU’s approach to Israel Folau. They may not be my views but he shouldn’t be sacked because of his on how he gets to “heaven”. He wasn’t preaching violence.— Barnaby Joyce (@Barnaby_Joyce) May 23, 2019
While Joyce is certainly entitled to his opinion, many social media users felt he should’ve been focusing on bigger issues.
Around the time of his Folau tweet, news was breaking that a number of regional NSW towns are facing a water shortage crisis.
Was @Barnaby_Joyce really tweeting about Israel Folau when this was coming out? Unbelievable! When does he start working hard for #NewEngland and rural NSW? After they've died of thirst? He left this for Labor, didn't he? https://t.co/HaHsQWAA4g— Kerry Glover (@TheRealKerryG) May 23, 2019
There were also numerous users who disagreed with his stance, with a number finding the irony because of Folau’s inclusion of ‘adulterers’ in his social media post about those who will go to hell.
How good is breaching your contract?— 💧Wazza (@WazzaH46) May 23, 2019
Ask Folau about his idea of hell before you preach that it’s a non-violent thing to say LGBTIQ+ are going there.— 💧Michael Burge (@burgewords) May 23, 2019
So hate speech is ok when you quote it from the bible. We need freedom from religion not more religious freedom. Folau was preaching hatred and was sacked for it as is right.— Leo Menssen (@LMenssen) May 23, 2019
Barnaby... Barnaby. Might want to check his little list of hate again. By Folau’s standards, as someone that has divorced and remarried you’re an “Adulterer”, and hell bound also, and so is your lovely new wife. 🔥— 💧Angry Granny (@AngryGranny1) May 23, 2019
Folau has religious freedom.— 💧Bee🐝 (@BelindaJones68) May 23, 2019
Nobody is stopping him going to church, practicing his faith, he can go door-knocking,even post on social media to spread the Word if he so chooses.
What he is NOT free to do, without consequence, is breach a contract he signed/agreed to.
Folau's view of hell is pretty violent- and that's where he was consigning swathes of the Australian population.— 💧💰Janine Gledhill (@jangle197) May 24, 2019
Folau shouldn’t have signed a contract if he wasn’t prepared to honour it. Can you please leave public life now and go away? Pretty please?— 💧Pete Wildman (@WildmanPete) May 24, 2019
The religious freedom debate was a central issue in the Federal Election, with resigned Labor leader Bill Shorten denying he had politicised Scott Morrison's faith by saying the prime minister should have made it clearer that he doesn't think gay people go to hell, when he was asked if he did.
"I do respect the right to religious freedom. I do respect freedom of speech," he told ABC's 7:30 soon after.
"But I also respect that just as religion is part of someone's identity, so is their sexuality."
‘Live legal question’
One of the country’s leading academics in employment law says Israel Folau’s potential court action against Rugby Australia could boil down to one key question.
Reports emerged on Wednesday that Folau had been in contact with Stuart Wood QC - one of Australia’s most experienced workplace relations lawyers - in a strong indication that legal action is looming.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports Folau hasn’t decided on legal action quite yet, but is leaning towards taking RA to court with Wood as his lawyer.
If the matter goes to the Supreme Court, it is believed Folau will sue on contractual grounds.
However he also has the option of contesting his termination at the Fair Work Commission on religious grounds.
Either way, Giuseppe Carabetta - a senior lecturer in employment law at Sydney University - says one key matter will be crucial.
“The live legal question is how far can an employer go in curbing an employee's activities outside working hours or personal lives and how do you draw that distinction in the first place," Carabetta told the ABC.
"Rugby Australia have been very careful in stating that their reason for terminating is because in their view he breached the code of conduct.
"As a general proposition, making the code clearer would help in this respect."