Some of Israel Folau’s most high-profile supporters have hit out at GoFundMe’s decision to remove his page.
Thousands of people who donated money to help Israel Folau fund his legal fight against Rugby Australia will get their money back, after GoFundMe shut down his online campaign on Monday.
The former Wallabies star launched his appeal for $3 million on Friday and had raised more than $750,000 within four days.
But the fundraising platform said on Monday it was pulling the campaign and issuing full refunds to the more than 7000 donors.
"After a routine period of evaluation, we have concluded that this campaign violates our terms of service," GoFundMe Australia's regional manager Nicola Britton said in a statement.
"As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity. While we welcome GoFundMes engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion."
More than 95,000 people had signed an online petition calling on GoFundMe to take down Folau's page, noting its purpose was against the website's terms and conditions.
However One Nation NSW leader Mark Latham, who defended Folau in his maiden speech to parliament earlier this year, suggested GoFundMe's decision was an "excessive use of corporate power".
"During the SSM campaign, Lefties scoffed when I said the absence of Religious Freedom Protections would lead to a reign of terror against Christians. In all aspects of the Folau matter, it's easy to see what's happening," he tweeted.
During the SSM campaign, Lefties scoffed when I said the absence of Religious Freedom Protections would lead to a reign of terror against Christians.— Real Mark Latham (@RealMarkLatham) June 24, 2019
In all aspects of the Folau matter, it's easy to see what's happening.
The greatest threat to our freedoms is from excessive use of corporate power and spiteful revenge of Left-wing identity politics - both on display with Folau.— Real Mark Latham (@RealMarkLatham) June 24, 2019
New protections are needed and last week in NSW Parliament I gave notice of a Private Member's Bill for Religious Freedom
Daily Telegraph columnist Miranda Devine said: “The haters and Christophobes have forced Israel Folau’s church into hiding and GoFundMe appears to have closed his account, in the usual illiberal way of woke corporates.
“GoFundMe buckles to the haters and closes Israel Folau’s account - refusing to give him the $700,000 already donated.”
GoFundMe confirms it’s closed Folau’s account. Denying him the $750,000-plus raised and issuing refunds to the donors, in contravention of their wishes. So it won’t get the $40,000 from Folau but it will still clip 5 percent from every worthy cause on its site pic.twitter.com/FbGR6PFkya— Miranda Devine (@mirandadevine) June 24, 2019
The true test of a democratic nation is not how we treat those with whom we agree but how we treat the rights of those with whom we disagree.— Senator James McGrath (@SenatorMcGrath) June 24, 2019
Freedom of speech is timeless and should not be restricted by the leftist gormless oxygen thieves of GoFundMe.https://t.co/20e5cIilzy
When asked about the closure of Folau's account on Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: "I think that the issue has had enough oxygen."
While Australian Christian Lobby managing director Martyn Isles said they were working against GoFundMe's decision.
"Yes, GoFundMe has pulled the page. People are actively working on a solution," Isles wrote on Facebook, adding that "things are completely insane at my end".
"I will be on Channel 9, SBS, 2GB and ABC this afternoon. Appreciate your prayers."
Others were happy to see the page shut down, with some pointing out the irony that Folau had seemingly failed to read the terms and conditions again.
Israel Folau really seems to be running into trouble with terms and conditions agreements.— Matt Bevan 🎙 (@MatthewBevan) June 24, 2019
we all know where this is heading: a postal survey on whether Folau's GoFundMe should stay up— Lane Sainty (@lanesainty) June 24, 2019
I hope Israel Folau sets up a Kickstarter to fund his lawsuit against GoFundMe.— Ben Pobjie (@benpobjie) June 24, 2019
‘Help people help others’
More than one million dollars had been donated to hundreds of other campaigns across Australia since Folau launched his appeal - "acts of kindness" that Ms Britton said are at the heart of GoFundMe.
"Our platform exists to help people help others," she said.
"Australians have shown themselves to be among the most kind and generous people in the world. We look forward to helping more Australians fundraise for causes they care about in the coming months and years."
Folau wanted money to fund his legal battle against Rugby Australia, which terminated his $4 million contract in May after a post he made on social media was deemed homophobic.
The post, shared on Instagram in April, said: "WARNING Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves, Atheists, Idolaters HELL AWAITS YOU Repent! Only Jesus Saves".
Folau has launched legal proceedings with the Fair Work Commission against Rugby Australia and is seeking up to $10 million in damages.
He thanked donors over the weekend and said he was "unsurprised" by criticism from Rugby Australia and others over his decision to set up the page.
"The money that is donated will be used to fund my legal battle, which could take years. While the attacks against me have shown I have a big fight on my hands, I will stand strong," Folau wrote on social media.
"Your support and my faith in Jesus Christ will give me strength."