UPDATE: Twist in Folau Fallout
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Sacked rugby union star Israel Folau insists he never agreed to proposed limitations on his social media use before posting controversial Instagram remarks which led to the cancellation of his Wallabies contract.
Lawyers for the 30-year-old lodged further documents with the Federal Circuit Court on Thursday, as he sues Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs for unlawful dismissal.
“Rugby Australia attempted to have Folau ‘agree and acknowledge’ certain purported limitations on his ability to use social media and otherwise comment publicly, but he did not do so,” the documents state.
Rugby Australia never followed up the issue, according to the documents.
The staunch Christian, previously in hot water for his social media comments, also denied claims Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle warned him there would be “significant consequences” if there was another incident and told him last year that the organisation “would never ask or expect him to act in a manner or way that is contrary to his beliefs”.
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However, Folau claims that during the November 2018 meeting, which took place a month after his contract was signed, he had a right to express his beliefs.
“Folau told Castle that he appreciated where she was coming from, but that he had a right to express his religious beliefs about what was in the Bible,” his lawyers said.
In one post, Folau claimed transgender people were evil and should repent.
In another he paraphrased a Bible passage saying “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators” would go to hell unless they repented.
In the latest court documents Folau also took a swipe at the appointment of a human rights lawyer to the Rugby Australia-convened three-person tribunal which investigated his behaviour and ultimately recommended his sacking.
Folau objected at the time to the appointment of Kate Eastman SC “on the ground of apprehended bias”, partly due to her advocacy for the LGBTI community.
She previously chaired the Law Council of Australia’s Equal Opportunity Committee, the NSW Bar Association’s Diversity and Equality Committee and the Australian Bar Association’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
“Rather than accept Folau’s concern and appoint another legal practitioner (or, indeed, any other person) to replace Eastman SC, Rugby Australia opposed Folau’s application.”
In May this year, Folau’s contract with Rugby Australia was terminated.
Folau is reportedly seeking Aus$10 million, including for lost sponsorship and marketing opportunities.
Folau is also seeking an apology and for his position to be reinstated.
The case will return to court on December 17 ahead of a trial if mediation is unsuccessful.