The Folau case: A public relations disaster

April 19, 2018

What has happened to Israel Folau indicates that the inclusion and diversity programs run by Qantas and Rugby Australia seem to be, to coin a Trumpsim, ‘fake’ initiatives.

Australian Conservatives’ leader Cory Bernardi has come out in support of the star rugby player saying, “Good on Israel Folau for having the courage of his convictions and not bowing his head to the corporate spear-tackle.”

Spiro Zavos writes on The Roar website:

“The exposure of the attempts to gag Israel Folau has created a public relations disaster for Qantas and Rugby Australia.

The rugby community boasts that their code is “the game they play in heaven.” But for how long in this era when Israel Folau is gagged about expressing his religious beliefs can this boast be proclaimed without someone or some group claiming that they are excluded by the mantra?

There are, as we now know, no limits to the spread of bandwagon fever. Indeed, at some stage, an atheist is going to agitate for Rugby Australia to drop any reference to rugby and heaven.

The point I am making here is that there is no opinion that someone does not find offensive. This is why the test for whether a person violates a code of conduct should never be whether some people believe they have been offended.

Let me state this as strongly as I can. In a free speech society, people are allowed to express views and thoughts that others agree with and others disagree with and even find offensive.

In a free society, you must be free to express views that offend other people.

At the core of the action taken by Qantas and Rugby Australia in the Folau case is the notion that if some members of the gay community are offended, then the right of another person to express his religious beliefs must be suppressed.

Free speech is only free speech when people are able, on both sides of an opinion, to express their point of view.

There is no doubt in my mind that the real reason Rugby Australia is trying to gag Folau is because Qantas wants him silenced. Rugby Australia gets a third of its income from sponsorships. Qantas is a major sponsor.

Qantas has the right to put its sponsorship where it likes.

But there is an obvious problem with the company’s objection to Folau’s expression of his religious belief on gays going to hell. That problem relates to the fact that the attack on Folau is totally hypocritical. As a letter writer to The Australian has pointed out: “How, then, is Qantas able to continue its partnership with Emirates, given the Islamic injunctions against homosexuality in the United Arab Emirates?”

Qantas has been painted as a hypocritical organisation more interested in thought-control than freedom of expression.

The company and its chief executive are happy to do business with Islamist businessmen who tolerate the awful punishment of homosexuals.

But, at the same time, Qantas is prepared to persecute a sportsman with an impeccable record of public behaviour because he dares to express traditional Christian beliefs on hell."

To read Spiro Zavos' full article, click here.

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