MELBOURNE (Reuters) – A fresh fundraising drive for sacked Australia fullback Israel Folau raised over A$650,000 (£510,043) in donations on Tuesday, just hours after it was launched by a Christian lobby.
Folau, a fundamentalist Christian, is seeking to raise A$3 million ($2.08 million) to help fund his legal action against Rugby Australia and his Super Rugby team, the New South Wales Waratahs, as he fights his termination in court.
Folau was sacked after being found guilty of a ‘high-level breach’ of Rugby Australia’s code of conduct after he posted on social media that hell awaits ‘drunks, homosexuals, adulterers’ and other groups.
His initial fundraising effort on the GoFundMe website was shut down on Monday by the crowdfunding platform, which said it supported ‘LGBTI inclusivity’ and he had breached its terms and conditions.
Folau had generated over A$750,000 in three days on the platform but all of it would be refunded to donors, the website said on Monday.
A new drive hosted by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) had recouped most of those forgone funds in a few hours on Tuesday.
ACL managing director Martyn Iles said he had spoken to Folau about his case and also pledged A$100,000 for his legal action “because it’s right and it sets an important legal precedent”.
Folau announced earlier this month that he had begun legal proceedings against RA and the Waratahs at the Fair Work Commission (FWC), an industrial relations tribunal, casting the action as the pursuit of his ‘right to religious freedom’.
Folau’s four-year contract, signed late last year, was worth a reported A$5 million.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)