The Executive Director of Change.org has hit out at Israel Folau’s “disgusting” comments in a live TV debate about the sacked Wallabies star.
More than 95,000 people had signed an online petition calling on GoFundMe to take down Folau's page asking for money to pay for his legal costs, noting its purpose was against the website's terms and conditions.
On Monday night, Sally Rugg said she “felt sick” over the sorry saga on QandA, blasting the notion that Folau’s comments were coming from a place of love rather than hate.
“I am not going to repeat Folau’s words,” she said. “But he made a disgusting comment about transgender children.
“That comment doesn’t exist in a vacuum. That comment exists in a reality where if you’re a teenager in Australia who’s transgender, you have a one in two chance of attempting suicide.”
She also hit out at calls for Australia to implement a Religious Discrimination Act, saying it would bring rise to hate speech.
“The words that Folau uses about gay Australians — people like me — they exist in a context where the Morrison government is looking at whether people really care or not that religious schools can exclude LGBTI teachers and students,” she said.
“How do they make me feel? They make me feel — they make me feel a bit sick, they make me feel tired.
“I feel confused as to why in 2019 we are having this sort of esoteric discussion about whether it is really harmful for these words to just sort of be bandied about in our society.”
Ash Belsar, who has previously run for parliament for the Australian Christian Party, countered by saying people of faith can also be victims of discrimination.
“Hurt and the fear goes both ways,” he said, suggesting Folau may have spoken out because of the weight of his conscience.
“I actually tend to think even if I look like a fool, I feel the weight of that on my conscience that I actually didn’t say something.
“I think that’s where Folau’s coming from here. I think that’s where a lot of us come from on this situation.”
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) June 24, 2019
Christian Lobby resurrects Folau fund
Meanwhile, the Australian Christian Lobby has launched a new fundraising drive for Folau after his appeal on GoFundMe was shut down.
Martyn Iles sent the link to his Twitter followers on Monday evening, saying $100,000 had been donated and “we fixed it”.
“On behalf of the Australian Christian Lobby, I have spoken to Israel Folau to let him know that ACL will be donating $100,000 to his legal defence, because it’s right and it sets an important legal precedent,” he wrote.
“I have also offered to host his online appeal for funds here on our website and he has accepted our offer.”
“So, please give generously today to help Israel Folau stand for your religious freedom.”
— Martyn Iles (@MartynLloydIles) June 24, 2019
Folau's camp earlier hit out against GoFundMe's decision to shut down his online fundraising campaign.
Folau launched his appeal for $3 million on Friday and had raised more than $750,000 within four days.
But the fundraising platform on Monday said it was pulling the campaign because it violated their terms of service, and that it was issuing full refunds to the more than 7000 donors.
"As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity. While we welcome GoFundMe's engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion," GoFundMe Australia's regional manager Nicola Britton said.
Folau wanted money to fund his legal battle against Rugby Australia, which terminated his $4 million contract in May after he posted a biblical passage on social media stating that hell awaited "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" unless they repented.
A spokesman for Folau said the campaign was in line with GoFundMe's terms and conditions, as well as all relevant rules and regulations.
"Unfortunately, GoFundMe has buckled to demands against the freedom of Australians to donate to his cause," the spokesman said.
"There appears to be a continuing campaign of discrimination against Israel and his supporters."
Folau has launched legal proceedings with the Fair Work Commission against Rugby Australia and is seeking up to $10 million in damages.