'He’s Not Here': Israel Folau Missing From Church Service As Backlash Builds
Israel Folau’s usual Sunday service was not held in the house of God, but inside his home this week.
More than 100 people gathered at his Kenthurst property north-west of Sydney.
It's one of many featured in Folau's multi-million dollar property portfolio -- but the owner apparently wasn’t home.
“He’s not here, if he was here he could answer but he’s not here,” a member of the congregation told 10 News First.
The sacked Rugby League player is laying low after receiving backlash for starting a GoFundMe Page to help him raise $3 million to cover his legal fees as he sues for unfair dismissal.
“It seems extraordinary that Folau’s case could cost anywhere near that,” Maurice Blackburn Lawyers’ Principal in Employment Law, Kamal Faruq, said.
He explained legal disputes of this kind usually don’t cost more than $300,000 - an amount Folau has received twice-over in donations, in just four days.
Faruq also added that complexities could arise in using the GoFundMe system, particularly under the “Third Party Payer” provisions.
If donors are considered Third Party Payers, then, according to the NSW Law Society, they are entitled to mandatory disclosure of any information about the case, potentially causing an administrative nightmare for Folau's lawyer.
“His lawyers, his representatives will scrutinise that and assess if there are any compliance issues,” Faruq said.
In a marketing video, Folau claims that he and his netballer wife, Maria Folau, have already spent $100,000 fighting Rugby Australia but a ‘Thank You’ post on Instagram, that she re-posted, almost had the pair fighting Netball SA as well.
“While Netball SA in no way endorses the re-posting, we do not believe Maria has contravened our social media policy,” Netball SA’s CEO Bronwyn Klei said in a statement.
This has sparked criticism from former Australian netballer and media commentator Liz Ellis, who said the response was “not good enough”.
“Anyone who is seen to support or endorse homophobia is not welcome,” she wrote on Twitter.
“As much as I love watching Maria Folau play netball, I do not want my sport endorsing the views of her husband.”
Ellis is among a chorus of Folau’s critics who have started counter-campaigns.
Rugby fan, Robbie Owen created a fundraiser titled “Israel Folau’s Intolerance Will Not Be Tolerated”, to raise money for LGBT charity Stonewall UK.
While self-titled "straight, white male", Mitchell Adams, started a petition to have Folau’s fundraising campaign pulled off the site.
“I started it because I was disgusted by Folau, a multimillionaire, using a crowd-funding platform that’s mostly used by families to help pay for their sick Childrens’ medical treatment to fund what I believe to be a frivolous lawsuit,” Adams told 10 News First.
The country Victorian said because Folau willingly signed a contract which included a social media clause, he feels he is “playing the victim”.
“Folau breached the terms of his contract multiple times…(he) is not fighting for freedom of speech, he’s fighting to ensure people like him don’t have to take responsibility for their words and actions,” Adams added.
10 News First reached out to Folau, and his family, who had no comment about the fundraising or future legal battles.
Featured Image: AAP