The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney has pledged his support to his “Christian brother” Israel Folau and claimed the way his support was cut off by GoFundMe was telling of “a new and ugly Australia where dissent from narrow cultural views is not tolerated”.  Archbishop Glenn Davies’s comments come as the Australian Christian Lobby fundraising campaign raised more money in less than 24 hours than the defunct GoFundMe appeal did over four days.  The second fundraising campaign has already amassed more than $2,000,000 in donations since it was launched by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) and has now been suspended having reached its current target.

Archbishop Davies said the original social media post that cost Folau his playing contract “canvassed some basic tenets of the Christian faith” and was “posted without malice.” “Folau’s right to express his faith and act according to his conscience is of fundamental importance in any democracy, and it is of great concern to many Australians that this right is being denied and vilified.  Many are wondering whether they will be next,” Archbishop Davies wrote.  “What Folau is going through may shine a light on an issue which is vital to our democracy and of crucial importance for Christians, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and to live according to our faith.”

The ACL set up the fundraising campaign for the former Wallabies star on its website after Folau’s successful GoFundMe page was closed by the US-based crowd-funding platform.  Folau launched his GoFundMe appeal for $3 million over a week ago and had raised $750,000 in four days from more than 7000 donors.  But the fundraising platform pulled the campaign, saying it violated their terms of service and announced it would refund all donations.  “As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity” GoFundMe Australia’s regional manager Nicola Britton said.

But Martyn Iles, the managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, stepped in to host a reborn online appeal for funds.  “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,’’ Mr Iles said.  The decision to dump the former Wallaby’s funding page unleashed a furious response across the country, with Mr Iles describing the move as “alarming” and “grand hypocrisy”.  “It’s decided to wield its politically correct baseball bat against anyone who doesn’t toe the line with their PC view of the world,” he said.

A spokesman for Folau last night described the platform’s decision to “buckle” to a “continuing campaign of discrimination against him and his 10,000-plus supporters” as “very disappointing”.  He said Folau’s personal website had already been the target of a sustained cyber attack, forcing the website to be shut down for 12 hours.  His wife, Maria, had also been “vilified” for supporting her husband.  “While Israel does not intend to respond in detail at this time regarding the accusations thrown at him or his family, he wants it known that these attacks have hardened his resolve,” the spokesman said.

Jeremy Sammut, a senior research fellow with the Centre for Independent Studies, said ordinary Australians who still believed they had a right to free speech were increasingly being hauled before HR at work for offending the sensibilities of fellow workers who now “expect to be protected from people they disagree with”.  “Religious freedom is the canary in the coalmine,” he said. Christian groups across the country were inundated with offers of further donations to Folau’s cause.  Reverend Michael Kallahan, adviser to the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, said GoFundMe’s decision to remove the campaign had actually “galvanised support” for Folau’s cause.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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