GoFundMe’s decision to shut down Israel Folau’s crowdfunding page is shunting the debate about diversity and inclusion into the sand dunes of absurdity.
The company decided Folau’s page violated its terms of service, which include an undertaking not to promote campaigns to defend “alleged crimes” associated with “intolerance of any kind.”
Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle also criticized Folau for using GoFundMe, saying it is mainly used for sick kids – forgetting that the site was used to raise $70,000 for victims of the Christchurch shootings.
And it is also currently being used to raise funds for a wide range of things from a Muslim mosque to a couple wanting to renovate their home. And of course, an anti-Folau GoFundMe campaign.
“We do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion,” said GoFund Australia’s regional boss Nicola Britton when announcing the company’s decision to drop Folau’s page.
But since Folau has not been accused of committing any crime by posting his now-notorious remarks on Instagram, GoFundMe is surely stretching a point by ducking behind its terms of service.
By refusing to tolerate Folau’s opinions in the name of ‘tolerance’ and ‘diversity’, GoFundMe shows once again that the tribunes of identity politics are tying themselves in knots of confusion.
Let’s recap for a moment: Folau did not say he hates LGBTI people; he said he loves them and wants to save them from the fiery destination he believes they are bound to reach unless they repent.
It’s a point of view, and one that Folau should be entitled both to hold and express even if you think he is completely wrong. What if gay people are not going to hell? What if hell doesn’t even exist?
Doctrinal debates about what Christianity asserts about death, judgment, heaven and hell are normally the preserve of theologians. But now it’s as if the entire country is engaged in a doctrine seminar.
What is increasingly clear is that the paragons of tolerance at GoFundMe are not interested in tolerance at all. What they and the other Folau-tormenters are demanding is not tolerance but affirmation.
Compare Folau’s conditional warning about the wages of sin, with The Australian’s columnist Nikki Gemmell’s view that all male gynaecologists are sadists bent on inflicting pain and humiliation on vulnerable women.
There was nothing conditional or qualified about Gemmell’s denunciation, which attracted angry responses both from male gynaecologists and from many women who had happily used their services.
Yet Gemmell’s blanket spray against those men who have committed their lives to medicine and the service of others was, in reality, far more offensive than anything Folau ever posted on Instagram.
We are a secular society and we accept the right of our neighbours to hold their own religious beliefs but we don’t much talk about them in public. If Folau has breached any norm of Australian life, it is that one.
We don’t know how the Folau saga will play out. But if the identity warriors determined to silence him think this fearless, elite, and competitive athlete will go away, they have almost certainly misjudged him.
Peter Kurti is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies and also Adjunct Associate Professor Law at the University of Notre Dame Australia.
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