Kent: Folau decision in lap of the gods

Israel Folau began Monday's mediation hearing in Melbourne with a prayer outside court. It was unclear whether he was praying to his God, the God of others, or a God that even exists.

When vision later circled on news outlets the simple thought struck that it would have been the perfect opportunity for God, if he actually does exist, to wander down to Melbourne's Federal Circuit Court and clear the whole thing up for everybody.

But he gets funny like that, God. He is like Cameron Smith, who some often mistake him for; he does his best work out of sight of others.


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Folau finished his prayer meeting and headed inside for a court-ordered mediation nobody believed would solve a thing.

Three times already there have been quiet talks to reach an agreement and on Monday they went down for the fourth and final time.

After a marathon day of discussions Rugby Australia finally put out a statement at 10.01pm that the mediation was adjourned to 11.30am on Wednesday.

Folau's lawyer George Haro said they weren't able to reach an "amicable solution" just yet.

"However, where we stand is that mediation remains on foot and (we) are hopeful to reach one (an agreement) in the coming days," he said.

Before leaving for court, Folau, who seems like a confused young man to me, posted a message on social media reinforcing his stance.

"I understand that not everyone shares my faith and some find it difficult to reconcile with their own beliefs …" he began.

"I want to be clear that I only share passages from the Bible as a gesture of love.

"It is only through the Bible that we can come to understand God's will. We pray that we might all find redemption and peace in the words of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

"As we head to today's mediation we also ask that He watches over us so that both parties may realise the courage to uphold the truth."



Folau still has those who support him. Photo: David Geraghty
Folau still has those who support him. Photo: David Geraghty


In his argument for truth, though, Folau destroys his argument.

The Saturday Telegraph revealed inconsistencies in Folau's faith and that often the search for truth is, in fact, more often a search for a version of truth.

Sydney University lecturer Dr John Dickson questioned Folau's understanding of Christianity, the whole foundation for why he was eventually sacked by Rugby Australia after posting on social media that all gays would burn in hell, a well as drunks, liars and just about anybody else who can fill a Saturday night with fun.

Dr Dickson remained cautious and respectful of Folau's beliefs, and took considerable efforts to ensure his interpretation of the Bible was a literal one, without criticism.



It is a complicated situation for Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle. Photo: AAP Image/David Crosling
It is a complicated situation for Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle. Photo: AAP Image/David Crosling


"As an intellectual statement I would say that someone who denies the Trinity does not believe in Christianity," he said.

Christianity preaches the Holy Trinity; the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. It is fundamental to all Christian teachings.

Folau's parish, The Truth of Jesus Christ Church, preaches that the Father and Son, God and Jesus, are one and the same.

"Denying this," Dr Dickson said, "makes someone something other than a 'Christian'."

They might believe in Christian values, he was saying, might even live them, but technically it does not make them Christian. Why would Folau preach this version if he is so letter-of-the-law about other parts of his faith?

It is the first suggestion that Folau's God might not be the universally accepted one to whom Christians normally direct their prayers and it leaves a loophole in claims that Folau is simply preaching the Bible's word.

He might be selecting parts of it, which could suggest a bias, and could even suggest prejudice.



It’s been a long time since this was about rugby. Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images
It’s been a long time since this was about rugby. Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images


The difference is just the kind of technicality that highly paid barristers like to dig their manicured little fingers into and prise open in court, shaping it to their cause.

If Folau is prepared to customise his philosophies to suit his beliefs in one area, of significant importance, why not another?

How will he explain that?

It is legally complicated and ethically ambiguous, like the whole saga itself.

Both sides have tried to claim the moral high ground. Both have enjoyed praise from their supporters for their stand. Once again, self-interest dressed as nobility has been served.

Folau claims to be acting as a soldier for those unable to understand their moral decline. Gays will go to hell. The bushfires were God's "timely reminder", the fires were God "speaking to you".

At the same time, Rugby Australia's decision has been lauded as a strong one for inclusiveness in this enlightened generation.

It overlooks that Rugby Australia merely warned Folau for similar posts last year and that an arm was twisted when sponsors, including major backer Qantas, threatened to walk if he was not sacked once he offended a second time.

On Monday they argued for hours, the modern moral stew; each standing on their moral code while negotiating a price acceptable to each.

As the hours ticked by and they got closer to resolution it could have been as simple as a contract being breached.