Friday, 10 May 2019

Rugby Australia's Only Got Itself to Blame

Every Which Way They Lose

So, what to do?  Israel Folau has been found guilty (by Rugby Australia) for a "high-level" breach of his contract.  
A disciplinary hearing ruled Tuesday that Wallabies fullback Israel Folau committed a "high-level breach" of Rugby Australia's code of conduct when he used social media to criticise gays.  "The panel has today provided a judgment that Israel Folau committed a high-level breach of the Professional Players' Code of Conduct with his social media posts on April 10, 2019," the Rugby Australia statement said.  "The panel will now take further written submissions from the parties to consider the matter of sanction." [NZ Herald]
In so doing, Rugby Australia has opened itself up to a legal challenge that is far more egregious than Folau's alleged breach.  Rugby Australia has committed a prima facie breach of the law because it has denied Folau's fundamental human rights--and last time we checked Australia was a nation which has said not only that it recognizes such fundamental rights, but is dead serious about seeing they are upheld in that country.

This, from the Australian Human Rights Law Alliance:

In short, Australian law does not allow you to fire someone because of their religion. It is in the law and it is black and white. All employees are protected by the Fair Work Act. Folau has a strong argument that his quoting of a bible verse and a call to repentance is the very heart of preaching the gospel and is the very heart of Christian freedom. Even Alan Jones, by no means a Christian, has pointed out that it is pretty hard to see how this is anything other than discipline against Folau for his Christianity. And the law says you can’t do that. 

But what about Folau’s employment contract and a code of conduct? Surely, if Folau agrees not to post “offensive” content and is paid good money by an organization, he can’t go back on what he has agreed. Surely his freedom of religion only relates to his freedom to believe things in his head and practice them at home, not to express them publicly? Firstly, we don’t know exactly what Folau agreed to, and it appears that he has made no social media promises. Secondly, Folau is quoting from the Bible in his personal social media. Under Article 18 of the UN International Charter of Civil and Political Rights (to which Australia is a signatory) this freedom of religion includes the right “to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching”.

Israel cannot be contractually bound not to manifest his religion in public or private. This is a fundamental freedom. It is protected in Australian law and in international law. [Emphasis, ours.]
It's up to Israel Folau if he wants to continue this fight.  Were he to do so, we wish him well--for the issues are significant.  At the moment it seems as though everyone has funadmental human rights in Australia, except Christians. 

We note in passing that the media reports on the deliberations of Rugby Australia reckoned that Folau's lawyers were making the very arguments we have alluded to in the paragraphs above from the Human Rights Law Alliance. 

We have an inkling that this is a case where Rugby Australia loses if it wins.

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