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GUEST BLOG: Ben Morgan – Israel Folau – Narcissistic Millennial martyr and an argument for atheism

By   /  June 30, 2019  /  51 Comments

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The ‘woke’ will argue that Folau doesn’t have right to share his opinion. No-one in a prominent position like Folau should express an opinion that is different to the progressive orthodoxy. His statements are an ‘aggression’ against an oppressed, victimised minority. That a person in his position of social influence must restrict their expression only to what is right and proper.  The ‘woke’ are outraged and indignant – “How dare someone express an opinion that is hurtful to others” they mutter into their chardonnay.

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The Israel Folau saga took a strange twist last week when he set up a ‘Go Fund Me’ page aiming to raise $ 3 million to pay for a legal challenge against Rugby Australia’s decision to rescind his contract.

Rugby Australia, his employer did not feel that his social media statements about gay people burning in Hell were representative of their organisation’s values. After requesting that he stop, Rugby Australia was disappointed when he didn’t and sacked him.

Folau’s position might have been defensible, his views while not progressive are shared by many in the community and the issue does highlight questions about freedom of speech. Folau is entitled to have personal religious beliefs, even objectionable ones, however the debate is about whether he has the right to express them freely. Particularly, when his rugby skills give him a large social media following.

The ‘woke’ will argue that Folau doesn’t have right to share his opinion. No-one in a prominent position like Folau should express an opinion that is different to the progressive orthodoxy. His statements are an ‘aggression’ against an oppressed, victimised minority. That a person in his position of social influence must restrict their expression only to what is right and proper.  The ‘woke’ are outraged and indignant – “How dare someone express an opinion that is hurtful to others” they mutter into their chardonnay.

Well a sad fact is the most religion is pretty hurtful.  Every religion demonises people that behave in ways that are not ‘right’.  Religion’s general lack of humanity is often overlooked. Neither of New Zealand’s largest religions; Christianity and Islam have been particularly kind to homosexuals.  A strange position challenged by the atheist, essayist Christopher Hitchens who asked – “If God didn’t want people to be gay why did he make so many gay?”  A simple, human question, that religious dogma struggles to answer, unless religion is actually about power and control or the ’good’ telling the ‘bad’ what to do. Perhaps Folau’s statements are simply another example of the age old hobby of righteous people judging others.   The fact that Folau has raised more than half a million dollars in week demonstrates that he is not alone in his opinions,

The point we should all note though is the similarity between the ‘woke’ response and Folau’s Christian supporters. Both of whom are essentially self-righteous people keen to tell other people how to live their lives.

In my humble opinion (a cynical Gen X) we should despise both sides and instead look at two more important issues. First, who the fuck is Israel Folau?  I know this is heresy but… he is just a rugby player. He is not educated outside of his Mormon religious education.  He has not served the wider community or contributed significantly to anything outside of rugby and the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Why do we accord him such a prominent position in the social discourse?  Perhaps if we just ignored his hateful commentary he would just go away?

But this brings us to the next point. Social media and the democratisation of moral debate.  Social media now allows everybody to enter the civic discourse no matter how uneducated or uninformed.  We see the same trend with anti-vaxers and anti-1080 protesters using flawed science to state irrational and unreasonable positions.  Folau’s position as professional athlete does mean that he has a large social media audience and he can influence a large number of people.  This is the first time in history that people with so little competence can so powerfully enter the civic discourse.  Folau hasn’t been elected, he hasn’t written books or spent years developing and testing his moral position in academic discourse. Instead he is that First Fifteen star (we all remember) mollycoddled through high school and then into a professional sports contract.  He has no concept that power, like large social media influence should be tempered with responsibility.

And power without responsibility is a symptom of narcissism. This beautiful word with an ugly meaning is the real issue.  Modern social media provides an outlet for the expansive narcissism prevalent in our society. When Folau posts his thoughtless self-entitled rants he as indulgent and narcissistic as any ‘woke’ cry baby whinging about how hurtful Jordan Peterson is, or how Don Brash should not be allowed to speak on a university campus. Narcissism is the belief that your idea is always better, that the opponent cannot have redeemable aspect and that there is no better way than yours.

The proof of Folau’s narcissism is that a person earning more in year than most will earn in a lifetime, who owns a number or properties across Australia is bludging money using a Go Fund Me page.  It’s actually funny. An uneducated, muscular six foot four athlete is not our normal lazy stereotype of a whinging Millennial but the ‘proof is in the pudding’ and it is clear that Folau believes his work is so important that we should all support it because he is a martyr for Christians everywhere.

Well he isn’t. He is really a spoiled child with a large media platform.  And our response should not be to demonise him because this only serves to promote his position and encourage him. It confirms his fantasy that he is a Christian soldier fighting the good fight.  Instead we have duty to do what his parents and teacher haven’t and teach him that he is not the centre of the world.  Instead he needs to grow up and if he really believes in his position commit his own resources to it.  Until he is willing to do that we should put him in the corner and ignore him.

 

Ben Morgan is a free-thinking, Gen X aspiring to write. Seeing some bad places means I value love and reason more than most.  Particularly interested in moral and constitutional issues and encouraging a more reasoned civic discourse.

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51 Comments

  1. Keepcalmcarryon says:

    Extremely well put except conflating antivax with anti 1080, that’s a simple PR smear.
    Agree fully with the rest of what you have put.

    • John Trezise says:

      Israel Folau is, as far as I have read, a member of an Evangelical Pentecostal sect, of which his father is a clergyman. This is far removed from Ben Morgan’s description of him as a Mormon and Latter-Day Saint. I don’t doubt that Mormons are just as oppressive towards gays as Evangelical Christians and Muslims are, but a little homework before putting pen into gear wouldn’t go astray.

      • Shadrach says:

        I agree.

        Israel Folau was raised as a Mormon, but since 2011 has been an evangelical Christian, and part of the Assemblies of God Denomination. And that’s not the only error in this piece. Ben states “He is not educated outside of his Mormon religious education”, which is also false. Folau attended public schools, not religious schools.

      • John Trezise says:

        Correction: A little Googling reveals that Israel Folau was raised a Mormon, abandoned that in 2009, then after two years of timeout had his Road to Damascus experience and joined the (Pentecostal) Assemblies of God, apparently known in Australia as “Australian Christian Churches”. Don’t know how dad Eni came to be a pastor, but he seems to have stiffened Israel’s resolve to keep hammering away at gays (or spreading the love of Jesus, depending on one’s point of view).

    • Mjolnir says:

      Nope

      Anti vaxxers and 1080 opponants are of the same ilk

      Science, evidence and critical thinking is alien to both tho many share those views, along with anti flourodationists, UFO believers, climare chabge deniers, holocaust deniers, the list goes on

      Its like they come from a parallel universe where water burns and fire is cold

  2. David Stone says:

    “And power without responsibility is a symptom of narcissism”
    There’s something in the Book about casting the beam out of your own eye before casting the mote out of your brother’s eye isn’t there? Comes to mind in reading the above.
    I don’t see Folau’s stance as being particularly narcissistic at all. He is not proselytising his own theories as the writer is, he is stating the teachings of a higher authoritative being to whom he allocates all authority and all his own talents and achievements. It’s a humble position not a self aggrandising one.
    God knows what the ARU have available to spend on this court case but it will be far more than Folau has available , not that justice should require that he needs any, but the fund raising campaigns are a form of referendum on attitudes and their success speaks for itself in that respect; And I doubt very much that it is particularly religious people contributing so much as people who think he should be allowed to express his religious beliefs , and that they are none of his employer’s business.
    D J S

    • SPC says:

      If he is in breach of his contract, not to do his employer harm, and after a warning – then this is an open and shut case.

      • David Stone says:

        Sacking him has done his employer far more harm than his tweets ever could. Where does it say in his contract that he is not allowed to relay his religion’s teachings. It isn’t an uncommon religion. In fact it is the basis of our history.
        D J S

        • SPC says:

          Can’t see how, they have right in law, and they can replace the player but not lost sponsors.

        • SPC says:

          It’s pretty sad that for most of “our” history the teachings of a “higher authoritative being” were unknown to the illiterate, and or those who did not know Latin.

    • e-clectic says:

      Yes, that’s a good summary @DJS.

    • D'Esterre says:

      David Stone: “I don’t see Folau’s stance as being particularly narcissistic at all. He is not proselytising his own theories as the writer is, he is stating the teachings of a higher authoritative being to whom he allocates all authority and all his own talents and achievements. It’s a humble position not a self aggrandising one.”

      As so often, I agree completely with you.

      I’m not a theist; for the life of me, I cannot understand the fuss about Folau expressing views widely-held by Christians. And emphatically by Muslims, come to that.

      “God knows what the ARU have available to spend on this court case but it will be far more than Folau has available…”

      My view as well. My family has had connections to the professional sports sector: while some of these people will have salted away a good chunk of the money they earn, most won’t. They’re young: they earn big, they spend big. Many of us would do the same, were we in their situation. It isn’t given to everybody to be frugal with the money they earn. They buy property – as I believe is the case with Folau – thus reducing the amount of cash available for court cases and the like.

      “…I doubt very much that it is particularly religious people contributing so much as people who think he should be allowed to express his religious beliefs , and that they are none of his employer’s business.”

      Exactly.

  3. That was a fairly harsh psychological judgement of Folau, based on scant evidence, which just goes to show that judging others is a human characteristic not confined to those of a religious disposition.
    And while it is true that the modern media seeks and publishes the often mistaken or unfounded opinions of people who are deemed to be celebrities and who have no special expertise on a given topic, the answer to this problem is not to deny the right of the ordinary citizen (rugby player, popular musician, talk-back host, journalist, truckdriver or whatever) to express opinions on matters of politics or religion.
    Do we really want to see public discourse on moral issues become the exclusive domain of those who have “been elected” or “have written books”?
    Your conclusion, however, is the correct one. If you don’t like Folau’s views, either debate with him or ignore him.
    The mass media however decided that it would disseminate his opinions widely, and the Rugby bosses then decided to punish him for holding those opinions.
    All pretty vicious and stupid, but what we have come to expect from the neo-liberal political establishment.

    • SPC says:

      There is a virtuous circle for those with talent – get paid what one earns. It is lucrative for a few. The game of rugby is sponsored, the said sponsors do this for positive branding. Sponsors were threatening to withdraw funding to Australia Rugby if they kept Folau on after the previous warning. The employer can terminate the contract if he is causing harm to the employer.

      The funy thing is Folau is seeking damages for lost endorsements – believing this is because he is no longer playing rather than because of the social media posts …

  4. Applewood says:

    Ben, you’re a decent sort of bloke describing Folau as not educated.
    That’s good of you Ben, kind. Yep.

    I, however would describe Folau as thick. Very thick.

    I would also describe him as an irresponsible moral reprobate.

    He has the power to hurt people, and he is hurting people, vulnerable people.

    Gay people of my generation lived lives of quiet, and sometimes not-so-quiet hell, because of persons like Israel Fonau.

    I don’t care (or know) if I’m woke or any other damned category, but creeps with clout, like Fonau, have a God-given responsibility not to hurt others just because they can. Hey – it’s in the bible.

    I also suggest that Fonau should see a shrink about his obsession with homosexuality.

    • richbuggar says:

      Well, I do tend to agree, anyone who thinks what’s written in the bible is the word of God or Jesus or the holy ghost is thick or missing the obvious in my humble, speaking the plain truth, opinion. Free speach is much more important than the feelings, hurt or not of those that are after all, the cause of their own feelings Should one say things to people that they know will cause them to feel hurt… no, not unless the greater good is that they will derive more good than bad from a severe reality adjustment. Should one be shamed, fired or vilified for saying what you want to disseminate because the social justice warriors want the sensitve homosexuals to be protected from the harsh realities of life. And yes, there was a time when gays would be shamed, spat on beat up and worse but should the reverse be exercised now the worm has turned?

      • Applewood says:

        Richb – The bible is really a sort of ecclesiastical Harrods – one can find anything one wants to in it.

        The problem with Folau is that he is a role model, and with that comes responsibility.

        Here in NZ we have tragic youth suicide rates, and if we have young guys grappling with their sexuality, then perhaps we should let them grapple – it is not particularly helpful for them, or for their peers, having public celebrities condemning them to eternal damnation for something that is none of their business, and is no big deal really.

        By your sort of reasoning, the outstandingly good work done by eg John Kirwan, in addressing depression, is protecting sensitive depressives ‘from harsh realities of life’ and people like me who applaud it are sjw’s.

        It’s very easy to fling labels at those who one differs from, but that’s just a distraction from the real issues.

        People like Kirwan – who I thought an inspired choice –
        was helping people acquire tools to cope with life – which can indeed be hideously harsh for many, especially when growing up.

        One doesn’t have to be ‘religious’ to see the benefit to the whole community if its members are able to live and to function constructively, productively, and happily.

        But I suggest that it is the damage that big-mouths
        like Folau can do to others, that makes this more than a freedom of speech issue.

        A dozen men could stand in the market place copying Folau likely to no great effect – but because he is who he is, there will be listeners or readers who think that when Folau says something it must be right, and therefore I think Folau socially and morally disruptive, and the sort of harsh reality John Kirwan hopefully has helped others learn how to handle.

        • David Stone says:

          “The problem with Folau is that he is a role model, and with that comes responsibility.”
          From Folau’s point of view this is a critical point. His position as a fundamental christian means that it is absolutely his responsibility to get his lord’s message out precisely because he has that profile.
          I think he is misguided too, but he isn’t alone.
          D J S

    • michelle says:

      plus 100 Applewood he is plain nasty, arrogant and judgmental hope he doesn’t come here we don’t need people like him in our country promoting this outdated views.

  5. A rather harsh psychological judgement of Israel Folau based on scanty evidence, which just goes to show that judging others is a human characteristic not confined to those of a religious disposition.
    It is true that the modern media gives a platform to those celebrities (talk show hosts, popular singers, op-ed writers as well as rugby players) who are deemed to be interesting or charismatic but may be woefully uninformed or unbalanced on a particular topic.
    But the answer is not to deny ordinary people the right to have and express opinions on political, religious or moral issues.
    Do we really want to confine public discourse on such topics to those who have “been elected” or “have written books”?
    What really happened here? The rugby player Israel Folau expressed his religious beliefs concerning sin and the punishment of sin. The media picked up on his beliefs and disseminated them widely. The Rugby Union then decided to punish Folau for holding and expressing those beliefs.
    That might have been the end of it, except that under British law Folau has right of redress. By trying to obstruct Folau in his effort to obtain justice in court, the neo-liberal establishment is only digging itself deeper into a hole. It would have been wiser to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to Folau in the first place.

    • SPC says:

      The employer also has right of redress to breach of employment contract, given his social media posts offended its sponsors and the prior warning to him about that.

      • Sam Sam says:

        You haven’t actually established whether or not Falou did anything illegal. The woke have a lot to say about speech, there Falau, 15/3 before that, Southern and Molynuex before. Every time a moral crises emerges straight away it’s about speech laws. There’s very little to suggest that homophobia is endemic to rugby Australia so why would you give rugby Australia powers to control speech? There is no legal or moral argument for it.

        • SPC says:

          This is an employment dispute and an employee has been found to be in breach of his contract – so it was terminated.

          The only person trying to bring law into it is Folau. He is claiming he has freedom of speech rights and freedom of religion rights that superced any obligation to honour his employment contract – in fact claiming his and other employment contract terms are in fact illegal.

    • michelle says:

      who and what are ordinary people Geoff ? it would have been wiser to punish him without getting rid of him punish him till he gets sick of the punishment and leaves on his own accord.

  6. sumsuch says:

    You say Israel Folau is a Mormon? That’s not a Christian. When you’re founded on nonsense you’ve got to arrange for the originators to be far-distant hucksters, unlike Joseph Smith. Folau’s not in a position to make comments about anything. Couldn’t folk just send the silliness of Mormonism to him. Or let the unscientific sects sort it out among themselves.

    Glad the reality of gayness makes this an issue — seriously negative connotations now to condemning it. Hence this confrontation. Despite the limited court of public speech — despite social media — I think Folau should be allowed to make an arse of himself . Or, the rugby board is in the wrong at the end.

    My born-again relatives were all rather crass about gays in the day. Always bypassed the ‘love’ thing and found a good scapegoat. The story of Christianity really. We rationalists are closer to love than those rationalisers ever came. When the first priority is making yourself feel alright you’re not going to get far along to truth. Yep, the sister and brother prove it beyond disproval: crazos for personal comfort. Now reaping the whirlwind for putting immediate gratification before the deferred sort.

  7. Janio says:

    I don’t find Ben’s blog enlightening. Israel Folau is not an ordinary rugby player, he is exceptional, brilliant, one of the best in the world. He quotes from the bible reflecting his Christian upbringing. I don’t agree with his beliefs and feel sad that he holds them. I find some of the judgments of him pathetic too – for example, who are the highly intelligent people who are calling him thick? and assuming he is going to influence people’s attitudes? All quite silly unless you can prove it. I thought Michael Jones had the best reaction, not condemning him but reminding him that the people he mentioned are part of our families.

  8. Ross says:

    Voltaire put is more succinctly:
    “Faith consists of what reason cannot.”

  9. Ross says:

    Voltaire has a more succinct explanation for atheism:

    “Faith is what reason is not.”

  10. SPC says:

    Ben, the player and family have not been of the Mormon group (CJCLDS) for some years now – now zealous for declaring their Pentecostal judgment against others of the world.

    As for the woke, has there been any effort to make his/such speech illegal under hate speech legislation, well no. Sure disapproval of his public comments, but no more than that.

    Ultimately this is an employment law matter, with an employee claiming that he should not be bound by employment contract terms inconsistent with his rights to have freedom of speech – in this case to preach his religious faith.

    • Sam Sam says:

      Well if what Falou said was truely illegal then some part of heaven and hell would have to be true. It would have to constitute a credible threat to the gays that will, Y’know, burn in the fireey pits of hell. And I just don’t think so low of gay people as to think that Falou could trigger off a mass suicide convention or what ever the fuck the woke are on about. It’s just pure madness.

  11. e-clectic says:

    Apparently casual and not so casual ad hominems are standard fare when critiquing Folau. Saves having to understand his point of view or any of the finer nuances of this whole matter.

    As for Folau being a sports dummy and thick, perhaps spend a minute and read what he’s written. As he says, you won’t agree with it but you might just start to appreciate his viewpoint and for an alleged thicko he can string a sentence together.

    https://www.playersvoice.com.au/israel-folau-im-a-sinner-too/#ht568mhWOMWspwYy.97

    • David Stone says:

      Thanks for link E-Clectic
      I have been making assumptions as to his angle, it’s a bit of a relief to see I had him about right.
      D J S
      I hope others read it.

    • Brian says:

      And what do you think the post that got him in trouble was? To declare that something you have no control over deserves eternal punishment.

    • D'Esterre says:

      E-clectic: many thanks for that link. I’ve read the whole of it. He’s an articulate young man, isn’t he!

      Most definitely not thick.

  12. Brian says:

    I’m not “woke” nor do I drink chardonnay. I am just someone whose childhood was made a horror story by attitudes like Folau’s. Your stereotypical depiction of his opposition destroyed any authority you might have had with this piece. For most this is just an airy question of hypotheticals. For others it is another skirmish on a bush war that has been going on for generations.

    • Sam Sam says:

      But is hate speech illegal when there is no implication of violence.

      But I’m not on board with making it illegal to be an arshole.

  13. Max says:

    For another take on Folau see my ‘Israel Folau: indoctrination and the Tongan Fakaleiti’.

    BTW Ben, maybe you should join us at the NZARH. Interesting case on religious instruction in NZ schools may be heard later this year.

  14. Another Godless Atheist Another Godless Atheist says:

    Here’s the thing, Folau has the right to say, post or do anything he wants. He has always had that freedom. But Freedom of speech is not absolute. while the Government can not persecute him for his speech, doesn’t mean his speech if free from consequences, positive or negative.

    Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Rugby Australia, Me, You and other employers, also have the right to say “That speech is unacceptable, please stop doing it”.

    When someone represents a brand, is well known to that brand, certain speech that goes against their ethos, is a right of that brand to take a closer look at their employment contract, issue a warning and possible terminate them.

    Foalu could have chose words, that still went along with his post about sinners. he didn’t need to include LGBTI people and Atheist in the company of Liars, adulterers, Drunks etc

    He simply could have said, “we are all sinners, and only through repentance thorough Jesus will save you from hellfire”

    Exact same message, with out targeting any particular groups

    I’m Another Godless Atheist, and that’s my two cents

    • Sam Sam says:

      Okay so this is a weird topic because morally it isn’t wrong to pray for sinners in the firey pits of hell – That’s why I can question whether or not anyone has read Folau’s interpretations of the bible or even understands the bible at all, rather just coming in with muh twitter argument I heard on Twitter one time.

      So I’m asking you if you think that a Lord’s Prayer is as morally questionable as rape and murder and so on. Because instinctively this is like knowing Folau can’t swim but throwing him in the pool anyway and watching him furiously fake paddle like a puppy.

      So yeah I think it’s wrong to tell people what they should believe and I think it’s questionable to give the right to control speech to a private company.

      So now that the introduction is out of the way do you have a counter argument?

    • D'Esterre says:

      Another Godless Atheist: “Freedom of speech is not absolute.”

      Definition of free speech: the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint.

      “…doesn’t mean his speech if free from consequences, positive or negative.”

      All speech has consequences. But that’s irrelevant to the issue of freedom of speech.

      • Sam Sam says:

        Well I think speech having consequences is very relevant. Notice how Folau’s speech has to have more consequences than other types of speech.

        Society is really inconsistent on gays. No one really cares about gay people otherwise we would all be gay. In some parts of the world it’s still illegal to be homosexual yet there isn’t mass adoption of homosexuality. In fact if you adopt homosexuality it would probably be good for jobs or some shit.

        So what’s the problem here? Is it really that my wiener got to close to the prostate or some bullshit argument.

        I mean no it’s fucken non of this bullshit. For the woke to prove that what Folau did, it has to be considered the same as pedophilia so we can legally Y’know cast him out of society with out constructing this bullshit cooperate structure to control speech. Just wait till the unions pipe up because cooperate profits are more important to the woke than workers apparently. We couldn’t even write this bullshit if we tried to make it up.

      • Sam Sam says:

        Well I think speech having consequences is very relevant. Notice how Folau’s speech has to have more consequences than other types of speech.

        Society is really inconsistent on gays. No one really cares about gay people otherwise we would all be gay. In some parts of the world it’s still illegal to be homosexual yet there isn’t mass adoption of homosexuality. In fact if you adopt homosexuality it would probably be good for jobs or some shit.

        So what’s the problem here? Is it really that my wiener got to close to the prostate or some bullshit argument.

        I mean no it’s fucken non of this bullshit. For the woke to prove that what Folau did, it has to be considered the same as pedophilia so we can legally Y’know cast him out of society with out constructing this bullshit cooperate structure to control speech. Just wait till the unions pipe up because cooperate profits are more important to the woke than workers apparently. We couldn’t even write this bullshit if we tried to make it up.

    • David Stone says:

      If the statement referred above by E-CLECTIC is accurate, Folau simply referred a correspondent to a passage from the bible. He didn’t chose the words, he chose a reference he thought was relevant in response to a request.
      What is going down here is an argument to ban players in the ARL and perhaps other professional sports on the basis of their religion.
      It can’t possibly prevail.
      D J S

      • e-clectic says:

        Worse – the dictates are from sponsoring bodies.
        The arbiters of religious freedom are the corporates protecting their bottom lines – that’s nothing to do with principle and everything to do with $$$$$$.

  15. Joseph says:

    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

    He has suggested lots of ‘sinners’ are heading to hell and now finds himself in the hell of unemployment.

    • John W says:

      Heading for Hell is a mindset one may well opt into.

      That pointless pain is a disciplinary device used by groups to enforce the fear of questioning or challenging what the are told.

      We all need to challenge what we are told everyday.

      Prophets are for the profits of continued income.

      Believe and do what you are told but make sure you pay the money demanded.

      I pity Folau, as I would a sick puppy, especially as he may not recover

  16. Mjolnir says:

    “The ‘woke’ will argue that Folau doesn’t have right to share his opinion.”

    He can say what he likes. As long as he understands there are consequences

    Free speech is a two way street

  17. Snow White says:

    I read this thanks Max, and it does add a new dimension to what Folau has been saying – I had known and forgotten about the Fakaleiti, and if it is an issue which he feels should be addressed within the Tongan culture, then that is perhaps where it should be done – and it is still a mighty big ask addressing long-established traditions and mores.

    I’d prefer it if Folau just quietly went away prayed for all the rest of us. I am not his business. There are religious orders which spend their whole lives praying for others – and then there’s the hell-fire threatening Folaus.

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