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Lost in translation

Israel Folau’s earnest belief in the Bible, as the source of the way to follow his faith, has made a mountain out of a molehill. Apart from the fact that, if he were truly a Christian, his first source of direction should be Jesus Christ’s teachings (foremost among which is the exhortation to “Love thy neighbour as thyself” – something which Folau clearly does not do very well!) he has accepted two myths.

Firstly, homosexuality – or any other of the LGBTIQ presentations – is not a matter of choice. The only ‘choice’ arises when the individual decides, or not, to reveal publicly her/his variation from the majority heterosexual ‘norm’

Secondly, there is evidence that the references which can be found in the Bible to a practice which has most recently been translated as homosexuality is actually incorrect. The translation implying a man ‘lying with another man as with a woman’ is probably more correctly translated as ‘a man lying with a young male . . .’ – which clearly is referring to pederasty or what we now call paedophilia – which we would now agree is sexual abuse.

In all of this, also overlooked by many, is the fact that we do know a lot more about a lot of things than was the case when the writings in the Bible were authored!

Religious people happily fly in planes, accept modern medicine and surgical procedures, read about actual space travel – the list is endless – all because research over the years has revealed knowledge which was not available at the time of the early prophets.

I grew up in a Protestant household in the UK at a time when it was assumed that everyone was Christian – mostly Protestant or C of E with a minority of Catholics – but I am now in fairly close agreement with Stephen Fry.

I am more than happy to try to follow the ethics espoused by Jesus Christ and am sure he as a person did exist as a great moral leader, but I remain an agnostic when it come to the existence of a god.

Since coming to Australia, I have been really happy that the Constitution prevents the government from supporting any particular religion, and I think the current push by the Christian lobby for legislation to protect religious freedom is highly dangerous.

We are a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic community with many religions represented here – let alone the many Christian sects!

It is only the Christians who are pushing for this legislation – which in turn is dangerous. And in doing so, they are turning their backs on the knowledge that has been revealed by scientific research just as they are doing in relation to the climate emergency!

We have an actual intrusion of religion into education across the board. Federal government funding goes to wealthy private schools which are almost exclusively religiously connected, recent governments have unwisely replaced properly trained school counsellors with religious chaplains, trained to proselytise, and, sadly, the states have not refused the money to do what the Constitution prevents the Commonwealth government from doing.

My personal belief is that, since we are notionally a secular country (in so far as our government is not allowed to promote or prevent religious practice), we should not allow religion to intrude in any way on governance.

If a religious group wishes to educate their children in a private school, they should be required to ensure they follow the state/territory curriculum. It is totally wrong for a school to base its curriculum on religious teachings which run counter to modern scientific knowledge. Creationism is one clear example and now same sex marriage – legal here and in an increasing number of countries – is still being opposed as unacceptable by many religious people, including both Christians and Muslims. It is not fair to children to leave them in ignorance of the truth because their elders refuse to accept it!

When I was teaching in the UK, my first position as a maths teacher was in the Convent of the Sacred Heart High School for Girls, Hammersmith. The Principal, a really delightfully wise woman, was the Mother Superior, one third of the teaching staff were nuns, one third were lay Catholic and the rest of us were non-Catholic.

The school followed the national secondary school curriculum but all the Catholics were required to attend mass on Thursday and only Catholics took on the role of providing pastoral care to a home class. I did yard duty every lunch time to balance the books!

Importantly, this was a public school, publicly funded through the County Council, and was, like many religious schools, able to follow the Charter under which it was originally established, providing it did not conflict with the government syllabus.

Catholics in the UK at that time were a minority and had a much more limited influence on government policy than has been the case here. In state secondary schools, the Scriptures could be taught as an examinable, academic subject.

The limited influence is highlighted by the fact that abortion, under certain circumstances has been legally available, as part of the NHS system, since 1967.

But I stray.

What I am trying to emphasise is that there is a tacit acceptance in the UK that people can practice any religion, but when it comes to education, they will only assist those schools which follow the approved state curriculum. This despite the fact that the C of E is the recognised church in the UK.

The Public Schools, like Eton and Harrow and Cheltenham Ladies’ College are totally independent but would still follow a very similar academic curriculum to the state schools since this is developed by the universities.

We run the risk here of children being denied a proper science education because modern scientific knowledge conflicts with ancient religious records!

Unfortunately, Folau’s misplaced enthusiasm for saving people from their sins has done a great deal of damage.

Young, vulnerable LGBTIQ are at grave risk of self-harm and suicide because they are too often subject to criticism and bullying because they are ‘different’. Major sports organisations have been working very hard to ensure inclusivity and prevent discrimination on any grounds and Folau has damaged his own prospects by refusing to conform, despite warnings.

Religion is a highly divisive issue and to be so much in the headlines leads to disharmony – which is really sad because it should be directed towards a standard of ethical behaviour which helps life run more smoothly. Any Australian is free to follow their faith BUT they are NOT free to hurt others in the process.

Every right – whether it be free speech or freedom to practice a religion – is always bracketed with responsibility. Your freedom should not cause hurt to others.

I earnestly beseech anyone who is still sitting on the fence to seriously oppose any legislation regarding religious freedoms because the issue is succinctly covered in s116 of the Australian Constitution! Nothing more is needed!

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  1. Josephus

    A sensible and clear article. The believer can profess whatever he or she wants – a god going up to Heaven, or a prophet ascending on a horse, whatever. I myself am a disciple of Her Noodleship, aka the Spaghetti Monster, and her acolyte Pirates. Apart from worrying about eating pasta I do not fret . I even allow others to eat farfale or risoni without cursing them for their transgression. The footballer should keep his views to himself. They are based on zero evidence, just as is my own floury belief system.

    Frankly, the world is mad. Off to cook rigatoni now, begging Her Noodleship for Her forgiveness.

  2. Terence Mills

    I’ve just been reading this in the New York Times :

    Clearly the Catholic Church in Australia only believes in free speech when it suits them.

  3. New England Cocky

    Yep, it is time to stop funding private schools regardless of the “religious” affiliations. There is little evidence that over 50 years of government funding has created a private school system of privilege that can match the best of the underfunded state public schools ….. without over-generous government funding to aspiring middle class parent voters who are free-loading on the Australian taxpayers. If parents want their own school with whatever religious affiliation then they should follow the state curriculum and pay for ll the expenses themselves a before the 1963 DOGS Case.

  4. David Bruce

    No amount of pontificating is going to change the fact that many thousands of South Pacific Islanders share Folau’s values and views.

    They are appalled at the way Australia and the rest of western society are pushing child protection, gender equality and LGBTIQ values onto their societies through aid programs and investments.

    It took 40-50 years for Australian society to accept these values and even now, there is much “collateral damage” to families, young men and women and children in Australia. Youth suicide, homelessness and child poverty should not be so widespread if we are doing the right things!

    No wonder China is making progress with their aid and investments in the South Pacific. They are not trying to change the culture, politics and values at this stage.

    On a lighter note, I offer this reference…

  5. HannahB

    David, why they believe these things when traditional values don’t espouse them is key. These communities were blasted by christian missionary indoctrination that defrauded them and devalued their culture and its inherent belief systems which have ALWAYS included a third gender and respect for all people and all life.

  6. Keitha Granville

    What South Sea Islanders believe and follow should have absolutely no bearing on anything. No-one is suggesting Folau should abandon his beliefs. He broke the terms of his employment contract, pure and simple.

    Religion has NO place in any kind of government. It belongs in churches, in communities, in schools as they choose, but it must NEVER interfere with the process of running a country, or a council or anything else that includes all people.

    David Bruce – you are suggesting that the agenda of this country in teaching and advising young people about inclusion is “pushing” ?? It’s about facts versus belief, it’s about science versus myth and fairytale.

    Believe what you like, practise your religion whenever you like but DON’T try and make it the law of the land.

  7. Brad Golding

    Great article. Always the question, what would Jesus say or do?

    Folau and the rest of us would do well to heed the words of a Russian Orthodox Priest;
    “Don’t criticise or judge other people, regard everyone else as an angel, justify their mistakes and weaknesses, and condemn only yourself as the worst sinner. This is step one in any kind of spiritual life.” Fr. Seraphim Rose.

    And just to prove I am a tad more eccentric than most, I do believe in something we call God, but it is something that is way beyond our comprehension despite those who say otherwise! I also believe that we and our humanoid ancestors were, originally, genetically engineered by an extra-terrestrial race, whose names have come down to us through the ages as the Gods of our pagan ancestors. To me, the evidence is overwhelming!

  8. Joseph Carli

    An interesting parallel :

    In response to the actions of Israel Folau posting his opinions on the Internet then accusing those who punished him for taking liberties with his employers who cut his contract…I offer this example from Ancient Rome…

    “THE birthday of the Emperor Maximian Herculeus, in the year 298, was celebrated with extraordinary feasting and solemnity. Marcellus, a Christian centurion or captain in the legion of Trajan, then posted in Spain, not to defile himself with taking part in those impious abominations, left his company, declaring aloud that he was a soldier of Jesus Christ, the eternal King.
    He was at once committed to prison. When the festival was over, Marcellus was brought before a judge, and, having declared his faith, was sent under a strong guard to Aurelian Agricolaus, vicar to the prefect of the prætorium, who passed sentence of death upon him.” (

    He was made a saint by those apologists for his seditious behaviour at that time…

    Here is the reply of Edward Gibbon to the apologists… (

    “. . . I know not where Dr. Chelsum has imbibed the principles of logic or morality which teach him to approve the conduct of Marcellus, who threw down his rod, his belt, and his arms, at the head of the legion, and publicly renounced the military service, at the very time when he found himself obliged to offer sacrifice. Yet surely this is a very false notion of the condition and duties of a Roman Centurion. Marcellus was bound, by a solemn oath, to serve with fidelity till he should be regularly discharged; and according to the sentiments which Dr. Chelsum ascribes to him, he was not released from this oath by any mistaken opinion of the unlawfulness of war. I would propose it as a case of conscience to any philosopher, or even to any casuist in Europe, whether a particular order, which cannot be reconciled with virtue or piety, dissolves the ties of a general and lawful obligation? And whether, if they had been consulted by the Christian Centurion, they would not have directed him to increase his diligence in the execution of his military functions, to refuse to yield to any act of idolatry, and patiently to expect the consequences of such a refusal? But, instead of obeying the mild and moderate dictates of religion, instead of distinguishing between the duties of the soldier and of the Christian, Marcellus, with imprudent zeal, rushed forwards to seize the crown of martyrdom. He might have privately confessed himself guilty to the tribune or praefect under whom he served: he chose on the day of a public festival to disturb the order of the camp. He insulted without necessity the religion of his Sovereign and of his country, by the epithets of contempt which he bestowed on the Roman Gods.
    “Deos vestros ligneos et lapideos, adorare contemno, quae sunt idola surda et muta.”
    Nay more: at the head of the legion, and in the face of the standards, the Centurion Marcellus openly renounced his allegiance to the Emperors.
    “Ex hoc militare IMPERATORIBUS VESTRIS desisto.”
    From this moment I no longer serve YOUR EMPERORS, are the important words of Marcellus, which his advocate has not thought proper to translate. I again make my appeal to any lawyer, to any military man, Whether, under such circumstances, the pronoun your has not a seditious and even treasonable import? And whether the officer who should make this declaration, and at the same time throw away his sword at the head of the regiment, would not be condemned for mutiny and desertion by any court-martial in Europe?”

    Was not Israel Folau also contracted to serve the legal conditions of his club and sporting league?…Having broke the contract, how can he expect otherwise than his employers to sever his person from their league…and with his slanders against a fair representation of both the law of the land and the accepted culture which he has gained both respect and riches by…should not any fair-minded citizen also censure his actions and condemn his arrogance?

  9. Phil

    I also believe that we and our humanoid ancestors were, originally, genetically engineered by an extra-terrestrial race, whose names have come down to us through the ages as the Gods of our pagan ancestors. To me, the evidence is overwhelming! was.

  10. anonymous

    Having been raised as a non church visiting Anglican and becoming and Atheist later in life (read after having some experience with christian religion from the perspective on an LGBTI+ person) I am sick to death of Israel Folau and his crappy views. Please I beg, anybody, please get him out of my news feed, I feel like I cant escape him and what he stands for.

    Again, we are back to the same old issue. Have a religion, have your views, just don’t expect not to be told to “F*^$^ off” when you try to push your views onto others. And when you are told, you then play the victim card and say its religious discrimination. Oh please, you dont even know what the word means. I tell you what, come spend 24hrs walking in my shoes if you want to see 100’s of overt and covert microagressions and discrimination.

    Israels views, being given so much oxygen by the media makes me sad, depressed, lonely and sometimes even suicidal. Oh don’t worry im tough and old enough not to go through with anything but I wasnt always.

    More importantly though, its the media that is giving oxygen to this, without them all this would be is another small minded religious idiot.

    Please, to all the media. I implore you, stop giving this story more coverage.

  11. Phil

    Joseph Carli
    June 25, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    All very interesting. But, he fruit cake Folau is soon to be a very rich fruit cake. He will win his case. Bets?

    A mate of mine who had a prenuptial was under the illusion his contract was just like a fishes arse, water tight. He has just cleaned out his clothes and his dog from the family home. That prenuptial being drawn up by a lawyer, was not worth the paper it was written on.

    This is not about Folau, the poor sap who incidentally for mine is about as bright as a five watt globe, has been chosen to fire the shots for the religous cracka jacks who want to take us back to the inquisitions. Now their fellow happy clapper is back in the lodge, it will be full steam ahead. This will be the startof things to come.

  12. Andrew Smith

    Federal Labor MP Stephen Jones just appeared on ABC News 24 with an extended Patricia Karvelas interview, sounding like a Christian Conservative LNP MP….. while proclaiming to be a Labor lefty.

    His argument used the narrow and conservative libertarian issues of freedom of speech and religion rights plus multiculturalism that requires Folau be allowed to say what he wants (presumably precluding GetUp to choose platform users?)….. LNP would have been ecstatic that Jones is helping to keep this issue in the news while ignoring how Folau presents his views, Rugby Australia’s responsibility to stakeholders and broader society, demonisation of minority groups and ignorance of secularism.

    Think PK slapped him, half heartedly, with a wet lettuce leaf when suggesting this could be an issue for other religious communities to which Jones didn’t really respond except to say he has a multicultural electorate including (Catholic) Macedonians and Croatians.

    If Folau was Moslem would the same conversation be happening with lots of slack being cut for his ‘beliefs’?

    How ignorant are Australian media and politicians for whom imported US Republican political and PR tactics to wedge the electorate, MPs, society etc. including freedom of speech, play hard on minorities (better against each other), religious freedom, look after no. 1 etc., are neither recognised nor understood, but accepted at face value as valid?

    Gives credence to the old trope that Victorian Libs are more to the left on social issues than NSW Labor, and stateside that such ‘Christian’ issues are being leveraged by radical right libertarians whom own the Republicans?

  13. Kerri

    Rosemary, have you read Jesus The Man by Barbara Theiring??
    I would recommend this read to anyone and I am a devout Atheist!!
    She translates the “miracles” as their original meaning would have been in Jesus’s time.
    Like, a “virgin” was an unmarried woman. Hence the “virgin” birth.
    Much of what is credited to Jesus in terms of teachings and actions can be explained by “Chinese whispers”.
    Stories of his acts went mouth to mouth in a vastly uneducated land where those in power were fearful of anyone who could unite the poor and downtrodden.
    Like you, I believe there was a man called Jesus (or maybe Mohammed??) who tried very hard (in the words of Douglas Adams) to “tell everyone to be nice to each other.” And as in the humour of the Monty Python team, Jesus words were misinterpreted and sayings like “walked on water” were taken literally when the historic meaning was to calm an angry mob.
    But Folau’s faith seems convenient? His own church where he preaches?? Tattoos are OK in spite of Leviticus 19.28??
    This has mendaciously been turned into an argument about faith when it is simply a matter of breach of contract.
    Full marks to the person who started the GoFundMe page to help Israel Folau understand contract law.

  14. RosemaryJ36

    Kerri – I have always interpreted the ’miracle’ of the loaves and fishes consisting in overcoming people’s selfishness. Those who brought too much food shared it with those who had none or too little.
    Growing up I was aware of the protestant sects who saw sin in everything including pleasure, with hell fire and damnation waiting for you if you put a foot wrong. It bore no relationship to the love of others, ‘do as you would be done by’ and ‘judge not that ye be not judge’ preached by Christ.
    Everyone protecting Folau is ignoring that this is not about religion but about harming young, vulnerable non-heterosexual people who are struggling to come to terms with their being ’different‘.

  15. Bob Parker

    It seems to me that a very large percentage of belligerent Christian anti-gay crusaders are in that position as a way to deny their homosexual leanings. Folau can pray and preach all he likes, he will remain what he is.

  16. johno

    @Phil, no bets, methinks you are on the money with your diagnosis,,, sadly

  17. Florence Howarth

    I recall in the 1950s, my high school lunchtimes being taken up by a girl of the Jehovah Witness faith telling us, even gloating if my memory is correct that only she was going to heaven. All others were going to hell. This is the great big problem with Christain religion. They all read the same book but come up with different interpretations. PS This girl was far from intellectually stupid. In fact very clever in other areas of her life.

  18. Aortic

    I am almost wishing for Parliament QuestionTime to recommence to get bloody Israel Folau off the front page. I am sick, I tell you sick of seeing and hearing about him and his Christian martyrs and funding and fundamental bullshit. Jesus we must bet he luckiest country in the world after all if this crap continues to hog the headlines everywhere. Enough for Christs sake, even he would have cried off by now.

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