Israel Folau’s court case has begun officially with the lodging of a statement of claim in the Federal Circuit Court yesterday.
“Israel Folau wants an apology from Rugby Australia, financial compensation and the right to resume his career on the field as a champion player representing his country,” The Australian reports.
The statement of claim, a document that sets out what Folau’s team will be arguing, says Folau is a star player, and if Rugby Australia hadn’t terminated his contract, he could have continued to play for years, earning millions of dollars a year.
Rebutting Rugby Australia’s claim that Folau’s social media was related to his employment, Folau’s team say his online activity was “not for any purpose connected to his employment” as a rugby player but primarily for the purpose of lawfully communicating religious content. “He did this because of his religious faith, which goes to the very essence of his personhood,” The Australian quotes the Folau claim as saying.
“The burden of proof in this case will lie with Rugby Australia to establish that it did not terminate Folau’s contract based on his religious beliefs, but rather that the decision was purely an employment matter,” according to an ABC report.
In parallel with the Morrison government drafting a religious discrimination bill, the Folau case will define the boundaries of religious freedom and free speech in this country. It will revolve around whether employer codes of conduct can limit social media posting. The Folau case may have already had its major impact in forming the discussions around the bill, with the Attorney-General Christian Porter reported as saying the new laws will mean there will be “no more Folaus”.