Because of the Christian views and Bible verses he posted on his social media accounts that were critical of homosexuality and so-called gay marriage, Australian rugby star Israel Folau was fired today by Rugby Australia, which claimed Folau had committed a "high-level breach" of the association's code of conduct. Folau's $4 million contract was terminated.
In several Instagram posts over the last year, Folau, who is a Pentecostal Christian, has said that "Hell Awaits" for unrepentant "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers," among other sinners. He also said of making gender optional on birth certificates, "The devil has blinded so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways. Turn to Jesus Christ who will set you free."
Folau played for the New South Wales Waratahs in Super Rugby. This year he holds the record for the most tries scored in Super Rugby History. Over the years, Folau, 30, has been honored as Young Performer of the Year, International Newcomer of the Year, and Centre of the Year.
A three-person panel at Rugby Australia (RA) voted to terminate Folau's contract. The RA CEO Raelene Castle said, "This is a decision that will change the landscape for sport in Australia and possibly across the world ... we wanted to make sure we took the time to get the decision right."
"In rugby, there is not a place for someone that puts their views or position in front of everyone else's," said Castle, as reported by CNN. "That is true of every employee that we have at Rugby Australia, not just the player base, every employee for Rugby Australia, we all need to work together and live up to the values of Rugby Australia."
Folau has 72 hours to appeal the RA's decision.
In a statement, Folau said, "I am deeply saddened by today's decision to terminate my employment and I am considering my options. As Australians, we are born with certain rights, including the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of expression."
"The Christian faith has always been a part of my life and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God's word," he said. "Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club or country."
Below are some of Folau's social media posts that Rugby Australia decided were a "high-level breach" of the code of conduct.