Israel Folau is seeking up to $10 million in damages from Rugby Australia in a lawsuit that will claim his contract termination was “unlawful” and has cost him the “best years” of his sporting career.
Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi supported Folau’s right to express his opinion after the star rugby league player posted a warning on Instagram that all “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” were going to hell if they didn’t repent.
The Australian reports, n documents filed with the Fair Work Commission, Folau alleges his firing on May 17 breached Section 772 of the Fair Work Act, which rules it unlawful to terminate employment on the basis of religious beliefs.
Folau is making a large damages claim with $5 million in lost salary plus substantial damages and civil penalties.
A source close to Folau’s team said the amount could be as much as $10 million, but the figure was still being finalised.
The Wallabies fullback had his four-year-$4 million contract torn up by RA and the NSW Waratahs more than five weeks after he posted the religious message on Instagram.
The claim alleges Rugby Australia and the Waratahs demanded Folau renounce the religious message. But when Folau refused, his employment was allegedly terminated “because of his religion.”
Folau’s lawyers will argue the social media post was written in the context of a “loving gesture” and the sporting star was “compelled to communicate the word of God and the message contained within the Bible.”
“The termination has cost Mr Folau the best years of his rugby career, participation at the Rugby World Cup, the chance to become the greatest Wallaby tryscorer (a decades-old record he was likely to break) and the associated exposure and opportunities,” the claim reads.
“As well as around $5 million in lost salary, Mr Folau will claim in respect of the loss of these opportunities (renewal of contract, sponsorships, etc).”
Senator Bernardi has told Paul Murray Live on Sky News he thinks that kind of corporate bullying is out of step with freedom of speech and freedom of religion.