Israel Folau has lodged formal court action against the rugby world, demanding back his stellar career and seeking $10 million in compensation.
Claiming unfair dismissal on religious grounds under the Fair Work Act, the rugby star has pushed through with his threat of legal action against Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs.
Folau was the highest top-scorer in Super Rugby and is seeking to resume his football career which he claims would have continued had it not been for his controversial sacking.
The court action comes after the former Wallaby and RA failed to reach an agreement at a mediation hearing at the Fair Work Commission on June 28.
“Unfortunately, our conciliation before the Fair Work Commission did not resolve the matters between us and I have been left with no choice but to commence court action,” Folau said in a statement on Thursday.
Rugby Australia terminated Folau’s multi-million dollar contract over a religious-based social media post in which he warned that “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” would go to hell unless they repented.
Rugby Australia said the post breached its professional players code of conduct — a decision that was upheld by an independent tribunal.
But with a new team of lawyers, the committed Christian’s eight-page court claim argues he was unfairly dismissed on religious grounds.
The Australian reports that Folau’s paperwork, lodged with the Federal Circuit Court, said he would have continued being a star player if his career had not been terminated.
The claim says there was nothing unlawful about Folau’s conduct and it did not justify his losing his livelihood, The Australian reports.
Folau’s legal team also argues that his Instagram account was not work related, was used primarily for religious purposes and that rugby officials “knew” it was his “usual practice” to uploaded religious content when thy signed a five-year contract.
A born-again Christian since December 2017, Folau is a member of the Truth of Jesus Christ Church in Sydney.
His stand on religious freedom and unfair dismissal has split opinions and opened a culture war in Australia.
To help fund his legal campaign, Folau lodged a public appeal which eventually collected about $2.2 million from than 20,000 people via a campaign page set up by the Australian Christian Lobby.
The Christian lobby fundraiser replaced an earlier campaign on GoFundMe, which was taken down by the platform for breaching its service guidelines.
Folau thanked his many supporters in the statement.
“I have been blessed to have received the support of tens of thousands of Australians throughout my journey, and I want to say thank you to everyone who has offered their prayers and support. It has meant so much to (wife) Maria and me over the last few months and gives us strength for the road ahead,” he said.