I'd absolutely do it again, says Folau

SYDNEY • Former Wallabies star Israel Folau yesterday admitted he knew his social media post saying "hell awaits" gay people would be offensive but he would "absolutely" do it again, reports said.

The controversial Instagram post led to Super Rugby's record try-scorer, a born-again Christian, having his A$1 million-a-year (S$935,000) contract torn up in May.

The move proved highly divisive and he is now pursuing legal action against Rugby Australia and NSW Rugby, claiming he was unlawfully dismissed under legislation that disallows sackings because of a person's religion.

Rugby Australia insists his sacking was purely contractual, saying he had agreed not to disparage anyone over their sexual orientation following a similar controversy last year.

Folau was a guest yesterday at the Australian Christian Lobby annual conference in Sydney, themed "Not Ashamed", and he was interviewed on stage.

"I knew it was going to be offensive to a lot of people," he said in comments reported by multiple Australian media outlets, adding that "ultimately it's a message of love".

His post showed a banner saying "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" would go to hell unless they repented.

Asked if he would do the same thing again, he reportedly replied: "Absolutely."

Folau, who has played 73 times for the Wallabies, also admitted he was not prepared for the fallout from his actions.

"My intentions around posting that and sharing the truth of what the scriptures say... I didn't think it was going to come to the point where I'm in this situation now," he said.

Folau is reportedly seeking A$10 million, including for lost sponsorship and marketing opportunities, in compensation.

He is cashed up after the Australian Christian Lobby raised more than A$2 million in just two days to help pay his legal fees.

A trial has been set for February, unless a court-ordered mediation in December is successful.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 20, 2019, with the headline 'I'd absolutely do it again, says Folau'. Print Edition | Subscribe