Leading article Australia

In praise of Israel (1)

21 April 2018

9:00 AM

21 April 2018

9:00 AM

Free speech has a new champion, and his name is Israel Folau. And once again, the corporate, political and media might of the ‘insider class’ is determined to silence him whilst showing utter contempt for the principles of freedom of faith and of expression that our society is built on. Principles that our forefathers spilled much blood for.

At the same time, we have now been given a precise definition of the current popular phrase ‘diversity and inclusion’. In an Orwellian inversion of the dictionary meanings of each word, it is now clear what the phrase as practised by the Stasi-like denizens of corporate Australia actually means ‘conformity or exclusion’. Conform to the progressive mindset or you will be excluded from polite society.

The Folau ‘gays-go-to-hell’ affair gives a masterclass in the most important aspect of the vexed ‘free speech versus hate speech’ debate. Namely, inciting hatred or violence against a person or group is a very different kettle of fish to expressing an opinion that might (unintentionally or otherwise) simply offend someone.

‘I understand a lot of people won’t agree with some of the things I’m about to write. That’s absolutely fine. In life, you are allowed to agree to disagree,’ Folau has written in a must-read piece in Players’ Voice, explaining his faith, his personal values, and his views on homosexuality and sin. Folau’s understanding of the distinction between tolerating all the variations within human behaviour and the theological concept of repentance is crystal clear. His comment about homosexuals ‘repenting’ for their ‘sin’ is standard biblical fare, which applies equally to many aspects of human behaviour. ‘There are many sins outlined in that passage from 1 Corinthians and I have been guilty of committing some of them myself,’ he admits. The point is simple. The Bible regards homosexuality as wrong and, as with all other manner of sins, it is therefore an impediment to entering the ‘kingdom of heaven’ unless repented for. Full stop. To say so is not to wish or incite any harm whatsoever on homosexuals. There are many gay Christians who have clearly reconciled that teaching with their own sexuality.

Folau’s comments specifically refer to the Christian concept of the soul and the afterlife. To label them ‘hate speech’ or anything similar is absurd. (As an aside, the Pope has recently been quoted as saying – although he now denies it – that ‘hell’ doesn’t actually exist, so the argument is a fairly obscure one for anyone other than the most devout.) The contrast with Islam, which condemns homosexuals to be lashed or murdered in this life, by the state or by religious authorities, couldn’t be clearer. Yet many of those corporate sponsors who have raged against Folau, including our national airline, are only too happy to make merry with certain Muslim countries without any apparent concern for their own cruelty towards or intolerance of homosexuality.

Again, the contrast is clear. Our secular society tolerates freedom of speech and religion on the proviso that the tolerance cuts both ways. Folau himself not only tolerates but actively supports homosexuality, helping to advertise the Bingham Cup gay games.

Folau has a neat analogy for the distinction he makes between judging another individual and expressing his own faith. ‘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. But 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?’

Indeed. It’s called conscience. But here’s what you don’t do.

You don’t get on your high horse and start throwing your corporate weight around by demanding a man lose his career for the crime of explaining his understanding of God’s word. You don’t threaten to punish the fans and the players by withdrawing your sponsorship because of one individual whose faith you do not share. You don’t penalise free speech, freedom of expression or freedom of religion just because you yourself worship at the fraudulent and hypocritical altar of ‘diversity and inclusion’.

In praise of Israel (2)

Our heartiest congratulations to Israel as the Middle East’s lone democracy celebrates her 70th birthday and Independence Day. More than ever, 2017 saw the strong links between our two countries, who share many ties and similarities, bolstered further. The visit to these shores by Israeli PM Netanyahu was an outstanding success. As were the Beersheba celebrations, a great reminder of our shared history. Yom Ha’atmaut samech!

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