As new revelations spill out in the Israel Folau debacle with Rugby Australia – apparently they neglected to include a social media clause, knowing the star had previously posted highly questionable material – you have to wonder how much worse this case could get. We all know the story by now, Folau condemning gays to hell on Instagram, prompting Rugby Australia to try to terminate his contract. But beneath the surface is one of the oddest side notes of this whole quagmire, that Rugby Australia appears to be contradicting one of its own policies in sacking Folau. Rugby Australia has a number of codes of conduct, one being an 11-page document called an “Inclusion Policy” which looks to protect gay and lesbian people who choose to play rugby. Down on page three is the kicker under bullet point 1.4: “Rugby AU recognises that both intentional and unintentional homophobic behaviour exist within society in Australia, and that this can have adverse and potentially significant consequences for some individuals and our game.” Thus, continues the policy, “rugby has and must continue to be a sport where players, officials, volunteers, supporters and administrators have the right and freedom to participate regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or religion and without fear of exclusion. There is no place for homophobia or any form of discrimination in our game and our actions and words both on and off the field must reflect this”. The key word in this is “religion”. Take it out and everything is fine, but by including that word, Rugby Australia is stating Folau has the right to play, and the freedom to practise his religion. Posting homophobic comments on social media may be crude, but ask anyone on the planet, this is what religious people do, they spread the word of God, however filthy and unsound it may appear. When you lay out the argument, one wonders, how can Rugby Australia ditch Folau when they specifically outlined in one of their own policies that they will defend him, his religious rights and his right to practise them? Folau is a follower of the Assemblies of God Pentecostal Church, and was previously a follower of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of the main tenets of the Assemblies of God faith, according to the governing body’s website is pretty clear: “It should be noted at the outset that there is absolutely no affirmation of homosexual activity, same-sex marriage, or changes in sexual identity found anywhere in Scripture.” Further, the website states “homosexual behaviour is a sin”, citing two famous Bible passages from Leviticus that label homosexuality “detestable”. Folau, a devout follower of this faith, is simply (and horribly) practising his right and freedom to express himself. Where we end up, and I’m sure where no one wants to be, is how to balance Folau’s religious rights with his employer who has outlined very clear policies of inclusion. Israel Folau posts homophobic social media rant: diverse views are fine, but this expression is a hate crime In stating Rugby Australia will both protect the rights of homosexuals and religious people, it has created a conundrum of epic proportions: and one it appears totally fine with taking sides on. It has clearly put the gay community’s right not to be offended ahead of Folau’s personal religious beliefs. On the surface, I’m sure this is fine with a lot of people. But in Australia, according to its 2016 census, over half of the population (almost 25 million) would classify themselves as “Christian” and another 22 per cent would call themselves “Catholic”. So, go ahead and play rugby in Australia, but if you’re one of the two-thirds of the population who follow a religion that condemns homosexuality, you do not have the right to practise your faith. Sure, not all Christians or Catholics think homosexuality sends you down to meet Satan, but you’d be hard pressed to get any formal response from any church or religious organisation in Australia stating they’re going to be lining up in next year’s Gay Pride Parade. Tomorrow a decision is expected from Rugby Australia on whether they want to terminate Folau’s contract on the grounds of breaching a code of conduct, given he plastered homophobic comments all over social media out in the public realm. But, it appears, Rugby Australia has already done this––breached its own code of conduct. What is the right answer here? That’s the kicker. Let Folau continue to plaster his opinions all over social media? Maybe, maybe not. But in telling its players, officials, fans and coaches they are picking one side over the other, Rugby Australia has not only contradicted its own “Inclusion Policy”, but told everyone some citizens’ rights are more important and protected than others. Talk about a rock and a hard place.