The Australian Christian Lobby’s new fundraising page for Israel Folau has drawn an incredible response.
A new page on the ACL’s website was created overnight and has rocketed past $800,000 by 3pm (AEST) as Australians donated in stunning fashion — a rate of about $820 per minute.
That figure doesn’t include a $100,000 pledge from the ACL to Folau’s legal efforts, meaning he’s likely already passed the donations made to his original GoFundMe page — which reached upwards of $750,000 over four days before it was shut down on Monday — inside 13 hours.
The group’s managing director Martyn Iles tweeted a link to the new page early Tuesday morning, saying he had spoken to the Australian rugby player and “we fixed it”.
“On behalf of the Australian Christian Lobby, I have spoken to Israel Folau to let him know that ACL will be donating $100,000 to his legal defence, because it’s right and it sets an important legal precedent,” he wrote.
“I have also offered to host his online appeal for funds here on our website and he has accepted our offer.”
“So, please give generously today to help Israel Folau stand for your religious freedom.”
— Martyn Iles (@MartynLloydIles) June 24, 2019
The page also contains the text of Israel Folau’s original GoFundMe post which asks for money to help with his legal battle against Rugby Australia.
GoFundMe’s move to shut down the page energised some of Folau’s supporters, with one saying he had just donated “double” the amount originally given to the cause.
“So many people are doubling or tripling their contributions. The fact that GoFundMe closed it got under their skin. It isn’t even about Israel Folau but employers and big tech censorship!” Matthew Tanttari said on Twitter.
— The Boss (@crypto_mafia777) June 24, 2019
The new campaign comes after media commentators claimed the issue had split the country over Folau’s comments and the response from the fundraising platform.
On Monday evening, Change.org director Sally Rugg let fly at the Christian rugby player on Q&A, saying the “disgusting” comments made her feel sick.
“The words that Folau uses about gay Australians — people like me — they exist in a context where the Morrison government is looking at whether people really care or not that religious schools can exclude LGBTI teachers and students,” she said.
Earlier Israel Folau said GoFundMe’s decision to cancel his campaign was disappointing and they had “buckled” under media pressure.
“Unfortunately, GoFundMe has buckled to demands against the freedom of Australians to donate to his cause.
“There appears to be a continuing campaign of discrimination against Israel and his supporters.”
Folau’s team also revealed his website had been targeted by a “sustained cyberattack”, and said there had been a deliberate attempt to vilify his wife, netballer Maria Folau, for supporting him.
“While Israel does not intend to respond in detail at this time regarding the accusations thrown at him or his family, he wants it known that these attacks have hardened his resolve,” the statement from Israel Folau said.
“Thankfully, several organisations have already expressed interest in supporting Israel’s efforts to raise money for his ongoing legal case.”
On Monday, one of Folau’s chief supporters — Australian Christian Lobby managing director Martyn Iles — said people were “actively working on a solution” after GoFundMe’s decision.
The crowd-funding site pulled Folau’s fundraising page and is issuing refunds to all his donors, saying the campaign breached its terms of service.
“Today we will be closing Israel Folau’s campaign and issuing full refunds to all donors. After a routine period of evaluation, we have concluded that this campaign violates our terms of service,” GoFundMe’s Australia regional manager Nicola Britton said.
“As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity. While we welcome GoFundMe’s engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion.
“In the days since Mr Folau’s campaign launched, more than one million dollars have been donated to hundreds of other campaigns, large and small, across Australia. Those acts of kindness are the heart of GoFundMe.
RELATED: Fierce reaction to GoFundMe’s move
“Our platform exists to help people help others. Australians have shown themselves to be among the most kind and generous people in the world. We look forward to helping more Australians fundraise for causes they care about in the coming months and years.”
According to the terms and conditions on the website, users may not attempt to raise money “for the legal defence of … intolerance of any kind relating to race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender or gender identity, or serious disabilities or diseases”.
But Mr Iles posted a Facebook message declaring the fundraising battle would continue.
“Yes, GoFundMe has pulled the page. People are actively working on a solution,” he wrote.
“For now, I won’t be able to keep updating beyond this as things are completely insane at my end.”
Folau was widely criticised over the weekend after asking the public to donate $3 million to fund his legal fight against Rugby Australia, which terminated his contract in May over Instagram posts claiming “hell awaits” gay people.
He has launched legal proceedings with the Fair Work Commission, and is seeking up to $10 million in damages.
When news.com.au last viewed Folau’s page, more than 9800 Australians had given him a total of $760,000. That was before GoFundMe removed it.
Others feel it’s not right.
“The Christian lobby is using Folau as a pawn to further their right-wing agenda” says one Christian priest speaking to Daily Mail
Gosford priest Rod Bower slammed the group, saying it was just using Folau in its wider battle against gay rights.
‘They have been behind this all the way along,’ he told Daily Mail Australia on Tuesday.
‘He’s a pawn in their game – he acted and they jumped on it to use him to further their own conservative agenda.
‘They are trying to force the government’s hand to change the law and effectively legalise homophobia. If they are successful, vulnerable people will pay.’
It comes after it was revealed GoFundMe shut down Folau’s page while allowing a preacher to raise money to fund legal costs over anti-LGBTI comments.
Canadian Christian preacher David Lynn, who was arrested for allegedly making ‘disparaging’ comments has raised more than $50,000 on his still active page.
Obviously many have questioned the fund, so what are your thoughts:
- Should Israel being asking money from the wider community to cover legal costs?
- Does Israel represent all of Christendom or just his own personal situation?
- Is this really about the issues of free speech and religious freedom?
- Will society pull back and show the respect for religious views if Israel wins his case?
- Will those who have donated benefit directly indirectly from Israel’s challenge or is this just misguided ‘hope’ in a reversal of societal attitudes?