June 26-29 2019

Homofascism: the belief that, in the interests of inclusiveness, people should lose their job for having an unpopular religious belief.

Support among the Australian public for Rugby Australia firing Israel Folau appears to be ultimately based on the view that his comments were 'not inclusive'. Rugby Australia cited a violation of it's inclusiveness policy in justifying excluding him from the game. The hypocrisy of supporting real harm (losing a job) in exchange for harm that cannot be demonstrated (statements about the afterlife) seems lost to such people. Alternatively, many people offer a technical, contractual justification. Ignoring that the contractual justification rests on an inclusiveness policy, this also fails the reciprocity test. If the situation were reversed and the majority of the population were reactionary, conservative and religious, would those who now support Folau losing his job on technical grounds also support someone losing their job for raising the ire of the majority by saying that gays don't go to hell? Probably not.

As well as the ethical hypocrisy, Israel Folau's firing raises many problems with freedom of speech and workplace discrimination. We could all face the situation of our employer demanding that we are, or must become, a full-time ambassador for the company we work for. They could then make all sorts of absurd demands, for example that we refrain from sharing our religious, political, sexual or other views with our friends, outside of work hours. In Israel's case this is compounded by the abuse of monopoly power. Folau cannot simply get another rugby union job without leaving the country. Rugby Australia has a monopoly on employment in Australia and is abusing that power to impose its preferred social and political points of view.

Israel Folau set up a gofundme account to raise funds for a legal challenge. This raised further controversy, mostly based on accusations of greed (because Israel could have sold off half his assets to pay the legal fees). The account was suspended by the gofundme website. Ironically, they cited their discrimination policy as justification. All donations were refunded. While gofundme will not support freedom of speech (or for that matter, a genuinely inclusive inclusiveness policy), they will raise funds for a kid who physically assaulted a senator (to be fair, the senator also had unpopular opinions, so at least they are consistent in that regard). The Australian Christian Lobby donated $100,000 and set up an alternative donation page, which raised over $1 million on the first day. This was a dramatic increase in the rate of donations via the gofundme website, and indicates that increased efforts to discriminate in the workplace on the basis of religion are generating significant pushback from members of the public who are religious or who value freedom of religion, freedom of speech or freedom of conscience. Folau and the ACL agreed to pause donations after another million dollars was raised on the second day. A conciliation meeting between the parties failed to resolve the issue, so it will now go to court.

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Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, has been accused of pulling strings behind the scenes to get Folau fired. He recently denied the claims (after the public backlash), at the same time as publicly supporting Folau's firing on behalf of Qantas. He also admitted to contacting Rugby Australia to demand that they were 'not involved' in the controversy, comparing the situation to cricket's ball tampering controversy. According to Joyce, this also reflected badly on Qantas, but they gave Cricket Australia time to fix the problem, and they fixed it, just as they expected Rugby Australia to 'fix' the Folau controversy or risk Qantas pulling out as a sponsor. Here is a previous article about a scam that Qantas appears to still be running in collaboration with its partner airlines. The scam works like this: Qantas staff reassure a passenger that certain baggage fees will not be charged. Partner airlines hold the customer to ransom at check-in and demand the fee on behalf of Qantas. They instruct the passenger to approach Qantas for a refund. Both airlines then deny responsibility for the mistake and no refund is issued. Thanks Alan for joining the morality police, but can you please stop defrauding your customers?

Meanwhile, Rugby Australia has started shifting blame to it's sponsors, including the government.

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