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The Israel Folau case: the weaponising of hate speech

June 26, 2019 - 08:45 -- Admin

In writing about the Folau saga recently, I showed compassion to those rank and file Christians who felt under threat.  As time goes on however it is becoming clearer (to me anyway) that some of those ordinary Christians have fallen or are falling for a campaign of hate disguised as religious freedom.

As I pointed out then, what is now under threat is not religious freedom but religious dominance. Various Christian leaders are using Folau’s breach of his employment contract as a weapon to attempt to protect their own privileged position and that of their various churches in Australian capitalism.

Before gofundme shut down his money raising legal defence venture, Folau had raised about $565,000 in just a few days. It shows the grip Christian fundamentalism has on sections of Australian society.  The Australian Christian League has now opened a new fundraising account for him and it raised over $1 million in less than one day.  I am sure he will raise his aimed for $3 m easily.

That tells me there is widespread concern among some Christians about religious freedom. It also tells me some of those donating are doing so driven by a fabricated fear campaign run by master manipulators. Some at least of those donating seem to be dutifully following the powerful Church figures and politicians pushing the fake news that this is an ‘attack on religious freedom.’

Some of the people behind this campaign are shrewd political operators. Their aim is to build a reactionary Christian movement through building a unity, incorrectly, around religious freedom.  It has been done before as the Bible Belt in the US shows us. More prosaically it may be their aim is to unite conservative forces behind an identifiable self-described symbol of persecution. Playing the victim wins sympathy and hides the reality of the oppression and the cry against oppression that is religion.

The problem is that freedom to spout religious ideas does not or should not include freedom to promulgate hate speech.  In my opinion what Folau, a well-known rugby union player, said about gay people was hate speech.  He wrote:

WARNING Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves, Atheists, Idolaters HELL AWAITS YOU Repent! Only Jesus Saves.

Despite Folau’s claim this is a quote from the Bible, the actual passage from Corinthians 6:9-10 makes no mention of hell.

This fire and brimstone attack on gays and lesbians and others was a warning that they were ‘sinners’ and hell awaited them.  For many gays and lesbians hell is here already and Folau’s words have only made their living hell worse.

How many gay and lesbian kids must die before the hate speech stops?

And the real battle for religious freedom must involve a battle not to be religious and not to be subject to hate speech disguised as religious commentary and broadcast to the millions of non-believers. Christinaity will only be free when it is free of its hate mongers and charlatans. Love your neighbour as yourself can then become a reality.

This is a battle between secular forces (including some religious people who believe in the separation of state and church and who view Folau’s speech as hate speech) and a gang of politicised right wing Christian fundamentalists wanting to unite and grow their forces.

The marriage equality plebiscite saw 61% of Australians vote for love. Thirty nine percent voted against. While the result was a shock to the forces of fundamentalism and conservatism, they are regrouping around an issue they are clearly telling porkies about to try and turn their minority into a majority. On top of that at the last election there was a big swing in sections of Australia to the politicians of hate disguised in Christian garb.

We must resist this fundamentalism and fight for a world in which gay and lesbian and other kids and adults are not threatened by Christian fundamentalists.  

Let’s build the resistance now to fundamentalism. We beat them in the fight for marriage equality. We can beat them in our campaign against their hate speech.