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An Australian Rugby star who said that gay people were going to hell has written an op-ed defending his religious beliefs.
Earlier this month, Isreal Folau said that God’s plan for gay people was: “HELL.. Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.” He then doubled down and suggested that he sees himself as a “persecuted prophet” by tweeting Bible verses from Matthew 5.
In an op-ed for Players Voice, Folau wrote about the controversy, saying that he would have left Rugby Australia if the backlash became too severe.
“I told them it was never my intention to hurt anyone with the Instagram comment,” he said, “but that I could never shy away from who I am, or what I believe.”
In the op-ed, I’m a Sinner Too, Folau said “people’s lives are not for me to judge. Only God can do that.”
He also addressed people calling him homophobic and bigoted, citing appearing on the cover of Australian’s oldest LGBTQ magazine, The Star Observer.
“I fronted the cover of the Star Observer magazine to show my support for the Bingham Cup, which is an international gay rugby competition for both men and women,” Folau said. “I believe in inclusion. In my heart, I know I do not have any phobia towards anyone.”
Folau argued that saying gay people were going to hell was a matter of scripture, citing 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10, which Folau’s version states that “men who practice homosexuality” won’t “inherit the kingdom of God.”
“I think of it this way: you see someone who is about to walk into a hole and have the chance to save him. He might be determined to maintain his course and doesn’t want to hear what you have to say,” he wrote. “If you don’t tell him the truth, as unpopular as it might be, he is going to fall into that hole. What do you do?”
He continued, saying: “In this case, we are talking about sin as the Bible describes it, not just homosexuality, which I think has been lost on a lot of people.”
Folau’s original comment and subsequent response led to a backlash on social media and calls for him to lose scholarships and even his positions in future matches. Folau ultimately escaped punishment, with the head of Rugby Australia,Raelene Castle, calling him a “strong role model.”
Castle had previously said that Folau’s comment “does not represent the view of Rugby Australia or NSW Rugby,” while Qantas Airlines, a sponsor for Australia’s national rugby union team, said they had “made it clear to Rugby Australia that we find the comments very disappointing.”
In response to the original Metro Weekly story on Twitter, LGBTQ rights advocate and Pennsylvania state representative Brian Sims said that Folau receiving backlash for his comments was “justice.”
“Persecution is when you have less rights, less say, less protection from abuse, less representation, less support, and less ability to have wrongs against you corrected. Getting backlash for being an idiot isn’t persecution, it’s justice,” Sims said.
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