GoFundMe takes down fundraising effort by Christian rugby player sacked for posting Bible verse

Israel Folau, a Tongan-Australian Christian athlete sacked by Rugby Australia for posting a Bible verse about salvation, was targeted again for his religious beliefs, he says.

This time, the 30-year-old unrivaled rugby star was axed by fundraising platform GoFundMe after raising more than $760,000 in legal fees.

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Folau was forced to end his rugby career in May with the Waratahs and Wallabies after posting a picture on Instagram saying "Hell awaits you!" with a list of sinners, including "homosexuals, adulterers, liars" and then said they must repent to Jesus to be saved.

Posting Bible verses and Christian messages is something the star rugby fullback had been doing on the platform since 2012. But that mid-April post was labeled anti-gay by the RA, which found he violated behavior standards "including respectful use of social media," and said gave them "no choice" but to sack him.

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Many see Folau, who tweeted he is in "the fight of my life," as fighting for religious freedom and free speech in the Land Down Under. He started the fundraiser to cover legal fees against Rugby Australia and Rugby New South Wales as he makes his case for "discrimination in the workplace," the BBC reported.

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"The Christian faith has always been a part of my life, and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God's Word. Rugby Australia tore up my contract for doing just that. That's wrong," Folau said in a video message posted on the original GoFundMe page. "Every Australian should be able to practice their religion without fear of discrimination in the workplace."

He added: "Unfortunately, because of my religious beliefs, it looks like I will not be given the opportunity to represent Australia again. I believe that upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club or country."

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Australia's GoFundMe regional manager Niccola Britton said in a statement that Folau was removed because the platform does "not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion."

“As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity,” she said. “While we welcome GoFundMe's engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion.”

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The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) donated $100,000 to his legal defense, which Folau said he and wife Maria have already spent. He set up an alternative site to raise funds, raising over $1.5 million of his $3 million goal within 24 hours.

“This campaign proves that scores of Australians believe Izzy's case is their case," ACL managing director, Martyn Iles, said in a statement to Fox News. "Voices of quiet Australians are being raised once again, and it's time for the parliament to act. The people continue to speak and politicians must listen on religious freedom protections.”

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Iles added in a video update: "The activists don't just want to silence Israel Folau, they want to make an example out of him. They want to make it very clear that for people of faith and for people with beliefs that fit outside the narrow band of political correctness, there is no place for them in the public square. This sort of public lynching is unacceptable in a supposedly modern, tolerant and ethnically and religiously diverse country like Australia, and our politicians cannot simply wash their hands like Pontius Pilate."

Folau, estimated to be worth $5 million with multimillion-dollar properties in Sydney and Brisbane, said he is "humbled and overwhelmed by the support" he has received from Christian and non-believers alike across the globe who believe he was wrongly discriminated against.

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"Even people who don't share my beliefs have defended my right to uphold and express them," he shared, "and made me realize that I'm not just fighting for my future and my family, I'm fighting for what's right."