The managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby says Australians are pouring money into Israel Folau’s GoFundMe appeal in fear of their rights around religious freedoms.
Folau’s page went past the $700,000 mark on Sunday, with around 9000 people pledging their support and money.
Martin Isles said he was among those to add to Folau’s fund and thinks the case has struck a chord with those concerned about their own freedom of speech and religion.
"Israel Folau has today been accused of greed, playing the victim, and being in a conflict of his own making. All three accusations are false," the Australian Christian Lobby MD wrote on Facebook.
"As Christians, we are supposed to stand with those of the household of faith who encounter various difficulties and trials.
"This has been very hard on Israel for a host of reasons, and the media continue to attack both him and his wife (Maria Folau) with false information.
"Therefore, I am very happy to financially support him: (1) As a tangible demonstration of support for a fellow Christian; (2) In recognition of the importance of this case to all of us. His case is my case."
Mr Iles described the situation as a “smear campaign” and a “calculated and deliberate attempt to slime Israel Folau”.
“It is unjust, and it threatens to set a precedent which could bring about the same injustice upon many employees, professionals, and others in the Australian community.
“He did no wrong, but he is being punished as a wrongdoer.”
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A number of Australians who have donated to Folau’s fund expressed similar sentiments.
News.com.au claimed to have contacted a number of people who had added to the fund, with one reportedly saying Folau was being “unfairly shamed in public.”
Another reportedly said the fact Folau’s fund was receiving so much money is “a sign that a lot of people don’t support the decisions that Rugby Australia made, not necessarily support his religious views but support his religious freedom.”
You may find yourself surprised why people donated. They may not necessarily agree with his views but will help him defend his right to express them.— Vince (@gullibles) June 22, 2019
They are donating to the free speech cause rather than the person. People realise this is not just Israel’s fight & if they don’t like being told what they can & cant say, I can only imagine that they probably don’t like being told what they can’t do with their money.— Clay Andrew Ryan (@clayandrewryan1) June 22, 2019
FOS is a common law freedom and IF has been persecuted due to his personal beliefs. Pandora’s box if contracts can control employees beliefs and freedom of expression.— The Sportsman (@Nezzy_Lives) June 22, 2019
Not a donor but I am guessing that a lot of people are doing it because they’ve been in similar situations with employers? I’ve seen someone on my LinkedIn timeline take his side and I’ve worked out it’s bc they had similar issues (with being outspoken, not with being a bigot).— Marlo Perry (@MarloPerry) June 22, 2019
On Sunday, former Wallabies player Peter FitzSimons said he thought the overwhelming reaction to Folau’s cash grab was one of negativity.
“I’m exhausted by the whole thing,” FitzSimons said on Sport Sunday.
“People say Australia was divided and I think there was some truth in that.
“Folau probably had 30 per cent support, I think after this GoFundMe most of Australia went ‘what, seriously?’
“That’s not what GoFundMe is for, it’s for worthy causes where the people need money and they can’t support it so they approach the community and say ‘listen, I’ve got nothing in my pockets, I’ve got a tumour can you help me?’
“I think he’s lost the Australian dressing room on this.”