SYDNEY – Sacked Wallabies fullback Israel Folau launched legal action Thursday against Rugby Australia's decision to dismiss him over homophobic social media posts, saying he was seeking “substantial remedies” from the governing body.
The devout Christian said he was defending freedom of religion by taking his case to Australia's employment watchdog the Fair Workplace Commission.
“No Australian of any faith should be fired for practising their religion,” the 30-year-old said in a statement.
Folau's contract was terminated last month after a Rugby Australia tribunal found him guilty of a “high-level” code of conduct breach for posting on social media that “hell awaits” gay people and others he considered sinners.
Folau opted not to appeal against the tribunal ruling, voicing a lack of confidence in Rugby Australia's process.
Instead, he has taken his case to the court system, saying his treatment left him “no choice but to stand up for his beliefs and the rights of all Australians”.
“The messages of support we have received over these difficult few weeks have made me realise there are many Australians who feel their fundamental rights are being steadily eroded,” he said.
Folau's statement revealed the argument his legal team will pursue, including his assertion that he simply posted a message from the Bible.
“The termination of Mr Folau's employment contract prevented him from playing at the peak of his career and on the cusp of a Rugby World Cup, which would have likely generated even greater exposure and opportunities,” it said.
“Accordingly, Mr Folau is seeking substantial remedies from his former employers.”
The action, which names both Rugby Australia and his Super Rugby club the NSW Waratahs, claims of breach of contract and unlawful termination under the Fair Work Act, which protects employees from being sacked because of their religion.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)