The increasingly ridiculous situation around Israel Folau is once again in the news. A little context first, and then a systematic deconstruction of this nonsense. I try to be impartial, but there is something about this situation that makes me want to sharpen the axe.
Background: Folau’s Social Media Screwup
In April, Israel Folau posted a photo to instagram which said, among other choice things, that homosexuals were going to hell. Such a post represented a breach of his contract with the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) which, like many other contracts, includes a ‘don’t be a dickhead’ clause. He had made such posts in the past, and the ARU warned him. He chose to do so again, knowing that the previous example of such conduct was a breach of his contract. The ARU punished him and he now has the nerve to play the victim. Contract law does not care why you breached your contract, merely that you did so. Claiming the right to breach your contract because religion is to seek religious privilege. He then planned to sue the ARU for unfair dismissal on religious grounds. I have dealt with this ‘religious freedom’ issue in another piece on this site.
From GoFundMe to Guardian Angels
Despite being a multi millionaire, Folau set up a GoFundMe campaign for his suit against the ARU. Suspicion surrounded the campaign from the start, and the company ultimately suspended it. This naturally fanned the fires of persecution common among conservative christians once they realise they must tolerate the existence of people who are not like them. Enter stage far-right the Australian Christian Lobby. As masters of the persecution gambit, who better to serve as Folau’s guardian angels than these clowns?
This group of christian fundamentalists created a pledge on their website to fund Folau’s campaign. It raised – wait for it – more than $2mil from approximately 20,000 donors. Quite the average. Folau himself, backed by the torn ACL, frames the issue of his termination as taking place as punishment ‘for my religious beliefs’. No – you are not being punished for your beliefs. You are free to believe as you wish. What you are not entitled to do is tell people who are different from you that they will burn in eternal fire! Religious freedom (whatever that means) does not extend to ordering people to repent because they are not like you!
Muh Freeze Peach!
Inevitably, the right has attempted to turn this into a free speech issue. As an example, consider this screed in the Canberra Times. After saying that the issue when silencing speech (which no-one ever discussed – there is a difference between consequences for speech and silencing it) was whether it does harm, the author went on to say
But if you are to be inclusive, doesn’t that include fundamentalist Christians as well? What if a Muslim player had tweeted [the same thing]? These rantings [Folau’s] do not cause harm. To the contrary Folau – however misguided – had the interests of homosexuals and atheists and others at heart. In his Christian world, he was trying to help them avoid the horrors of the eternal hellfire.
In order, no – inclusivity does not extend to tolerating the hateful and intolerant. Second, your ‘whataboutism’ is not an argument. Indeed, it is fair to say that if a muslim player posted the same thing the ARU would have terminated his contract as well. Same standard – hurts, I know. Third, and by far most egregious, is the absurd notion that Folau had the interests of the condemned at heart in his rant! Is this author seriously trying to argue that Folau’s post was designed to help the people he condemned?
Setting aside the ridiculous idea of eternal punishment for a finite crime, are we seriously to believe that telling a kid that his father will belt him if he misbehaves so he better not do it, the result being that his father does not belt him, is an act of love? How about the father just, oh I do not know, does not belt the kid? Seriously! The god of the bible is an abusive parent on a cosmic scale.
Conclusion: The Victim Narrative
Throughout this entire saga, there has been a consistent streat of crap about how Folau as an individual, and the religious (read christians) in this country generally, are victims. Not being allowed to discriminate against people is not discrimination against you! I do not care what your religious text says. Society has moved on. We no longer treat women as property, it is no longer legal to rape your wife, we no longer keep slaves. You are not victims because you have to accept the fact that society has evolved beyond the year 987AD.
The victim narrative really is all that political, conservative christianity has left after it lost its ability to, you know, kill people who disagree with them. The loss of state power to enforce rules you by and large made up renders you powerless, and you hate that. You and your ilk were in control for centuries, existing as a fifth column anointing kings, controlling massive tracts of land and paying no tax as you told people how to live and tolerated no dissent. However, as science and knowledge advanced, people began to see how utterly arbitrary and made up many of your ‘rules’ were and they resented that. The rise of informed, articulate and ultimately correct critics of your worldview (the Four Horsemen of Atheism) rattled you. You were not in control anymore. You could no longer claim to be superior because muh religion.
Now society expects you to follow the law as well? No exceptions for religious people because muh religion? Believers subject to the same standards as the rest of us? Oh how utterly persecuted you are.
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