Fresh accusation levelled at Folau

 

A prominent gay rights campaigner has written to the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW, accusing ex-Wallaby Israel Folau of "homosexuality vilification" and demanding he apologises and pays $100,000 to a charity.

Activist Garry Burns on Sunday wrote to the board's president complaining about Folau's infamous April Instagram post in which he warned "hell awaits" homosexuals.

Mr Burns also complained about the rugby player's more recent comments in a video sermon linking severe droughts and unprecedented bushfires to the legalisation of same-sex marriage in late 2017.

He wrote that Folau's statements were "objectively capable of incitement of contempt and or hatred of homosexual persons on the ground of their homosexuality".

"To suggest or imply that same-sex couples are causing these dreadful (natural disaster) events to occur, that - I would allege - is vilification because it's singling out a particular group within the community," Mr Burns told AAP.

"I'm confident that if this goes to a hearing, the complaint will be substantiated."

If the president of the anti-discrimination board accepts the complaint under the state's Anti-Discrimination Act, the matter would normally go to conciliation.

If that fails to resolve the matter, it can be referred to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for a legal decision.

Garry Burns has demanded an apology and $100,000 from Israel Folau. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian
Garry Burns has demanded an apology and $100,000 from Israel Folau. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian

Mr Burns in his complaint argues Folau's statements in relation to transgender and homosexual Australians could have a dire effect on teenagers suffering from low self-esteem.

"The continual targeting of them by Mr Folau in the media … could lead those teens to suicide," he states.

Mr Burns in 2013 and 2014 had success at NCAT when the tribunal found a former Katter Party candidate had vilified homosexuals and ordered she publicly apologise.

But when Tess Corbett, a Victorian, didn't retract her comments, he couldn't enforce the ruling because she wasn't a NSW resident.

Mr Burns subsequently lost cases in the NSW Supreme Court and the High Court in pursuit of the matter.

Folau, a hardline Christian, claims he was wrongfully dismissed by Rugby Australia and Rugby NSW after his controversial Instagram post. He lodged an updated statement of claim last week where he upped his demand for compensation from $10 million to $14 million.

 

In a video posted to his website on Saturday, Folau attempted to clarify what Prime Minister Scott Morrison labelled "appalling" comments appearing to link bushfires to gay marriage.

"Look how rapid these bushfires, these droughts, all these things have come in a short period of time. Do you think it's a coincidence or not?" Folau said in a church sermon.

"God is speaking to you guys. Australia you need to repent and take these laws and turn it back to what is right by God."

But on Saturday the 30-year-old explained he did not intend to offend victims of the devastating fires that have ravaged parts of Australia.

"What I was referring to in terms of the natural disasters that are happening now wasn't a direct, I guess, message to the people that are affected," Folau said.

"In actual fact, it was just a timely reminder of God's word and trying to point people onto the path of righteousness.

"In saying that, my thoughts and prayers do go out to the people that are affected. It's horrible to see and you never want anyone to go through that sort of stuff, but as a Christian, you are always praying for people.

"You see the droughts today, you pray for rain and things to be restored. That's ultimately as Christians what we're driven by and what we're bound by is God's love."

 


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