Israel Folau‘s representatives say GoFundMe “buckled to demands against the freedoms of Australians” when it pulled down his fundraising page.  Responding for the first time since the organisation’s decision to remove the campaign, a spokesperson for Folau insisted it complied with GoFundMe’s terms and conditions, along with “all relevant rules and regulations”.  “There appears to be a continuing campaign of discrimination against Israel and his supporters,” the spokesperson said via a statement.  “He is very grateful to the 10,000-plus supporters who believed in good faith that their donations would contribute to his case against Rugby Australia.”

They also allege that the former Wallaby’s website has been targeted by a “sustained cyberattack” and that a “deliberate attempt” has been made to “vilify” netballer Maria Folau 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 everyone to know these attacks have hardened his resolve,” the spokesperson said.  They also claim several organisations have flagged they will fill the breach left by GoFundMe, pledging to organise the fundraising effort.

Questions meanwhile have been raised over how and when donors who contributed will receive their refund from GoFundMe.  Each contributor was charged a 2.2 per cent transaction fee when they donated money to help Folau pay his $3 million legal fight against Rugby Australia.  More than $700,000 was raised by contributors from all over the world.  It comes as religious organisations told The Australian they have been inundated with calls from donors asking how else they can support Folau’s legal battle after the online platform found he violated its terms of service.

Rev 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.  “People have been asking me how else they can donate and telling me they now want to double their contribution,” Reverend Kallahan said. “What GoFundMe has done is discriminatory because they’ve said they’ll support people who have certain beliefs but not others.”  GoFundMe’s terms and conditions, listed on their website, state that it is up to the donor to determine the “appropriateness” of contributing to a campaign.

“We expressly disclaim any liability or responsibility for the outcome or success of any Campaign.  You, as a Donor, must make the final determination as to the value and appropriateness of contributing to any Campaign, Campaign Organiser or Charity,” it reads.  Earlier, in a statement, GoFundMe said they would be issuing a full refund to all donors, after Folau raised in excess of $700,000.  “We will be closing Israel Folau’s campaign and issuing full refunds to all donors.  After a routine period of evaluation, we have concluded that this campaign violates our terms of service,” GoFundMe Australia regional manager Nicola Britton said.

“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.”  GoFundMe’s official Twitter account handle and logo features a rainbow coloured flag in support of LGBTIQ+ people, which was used on their site before Folau launched his crowd-funding campaign.  It comes as the former Wallabies star attended a closed church service at his father’s house after launching his $3 million funding campaign. <

The Law Council of Australia said the issue of crowd-funding a law suit opened up a “veritable can of worms” for the legal profession and the courts.  Law Council of Australia President, Arthur Moses SC pointed out that if Folau’s case was dismissed or the litigation failed, the money raised could be used to pay legal expenses of the opposing side.  “Furthermore, if a lawyer for a litigant is paid using the proceeds of a crowd-funding campaign, this may expose a lawyer to a claim brought by persons who had contributed to the crowd-funding who may claim they were misled as to the use of the money or who do not approve of the conduct of the case,” Mr Moses said.

Source Compiled by APN from media reports

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