Sydney (AFP) – Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle said Wallabies star Israel Folau’s anti-gay social media postings are the most difficult thing she’s ever had to deal with, adding: “There is no black and white answer.”
Devout Christian Folau, one of Australia’s most marketable players, caused a storm last month when he said gay people were destined for hell.
He again courted controversy this week by posting a Twitter link to a video opposing same-sex marriage by late American evangelist David Wilkerson.
Castle, who has so far opted not to sanction Folau, said it was a delicate situation, pitting a “human rights issue” against freedom of speech.
“In my career, this is the singularly most difficult thing I’ve ever had to deal with,” she told Fox Sports on Wednesday evening. “And that’s because there is no black and white answer.
“On the one hand you’re dealing with a human rights issue and on the other hand you’re dealing with a freedom of speech (issue).
“There’s someone’s right to express their views, whether it be religious or otherwise, and I think the test is whether it’s done in a respectful way. So that’s the measure we’ll continue to apply.”
A defiant Folau, 29, has made clear he will not be backing away from his staunch religious beliefs regarding homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
It has put Rugby Australia in a difficult position as it tries to balance its desire to re-sign Folau to a new contract with the demands of leading sponsors including national airline Qantas, which has criticised his stance.
The furore has raised questions over Folau’s future as a Wallaby with clubs in Europe and Japan, as well as Australia’s National Rugby League, reportedly interested in signing him.
Castle said she had not spoken to Folau since his latest Twitter post, but “we will continue to be in a dialogue about this”.
“I really wish I could sit here and say that this is black and white and by sanctioning him we’ll fix it or by going down this path we’ll finish it as well,” she said.
“But it really is not that simple because of the freedom of speech element.”