It wasn’t where Eternity expected the news to come from, but a two-page spread in the Australian Financial Review by Aaron Patrick unearths new facts about the Israel Folau case.
The story lives up to its headline: “How Folau’s Team won a Biblical Maul.”
Two major reveals:
• The media legal strategy of the Folau team “drove Rugby Australia to offer deal after deal out of desperation to end a campaign that was not only challenging the sport’s very identity, but Australia’s relationship with religion.”
• “The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, agreed to explain the Bible and the theological questions raised by Folau’s post”. Eternity has confirmed that Davies agreed to take part as an expert witness on the Bible, rather than as a character witness for Folau himself.
As Patrick puts it “the case operated at the intersection of the law, business, politics and public opinion.” His story goes into details of the formation of a combined legal and PR team to back Folau. What’s interesting about this story is that it has come out in the Financial Review which is widely read by the peers of the professionals involved.
A High Court showdown over the right to quote the Bible on Instagram could have marked the apex of the culture wars.
This means that they have no objection to their names being associated – and being publicised – as belonging to the Folau team. Details of which lawyer provided advice, and fly-on-the-wall accounts of key meetings make it clear this is an authorised account.
It’s an account that does not endorse Israel Folau’s stance. (the Fin is not a socially conservative newspaper.) Rather it says the team around him won despite the odds. The “write-off” – or subhead – to the Fin’s story says “A PR campaign that turned a weak legal hand into a strong suit proved pivotal in Israel Folau’s crusade to extract a huge payment and apology from rugby authorities.”
The court documents filed in the Federal Court revealed that the option of having the religious freedom aspects of this case as part of the court case was not taken up. Patrick reveals that “some political figures wanted (Stuart) Wood (the barrister on the Folau team) to turn the case into a fight over whether the constitution protected religious beliefs. A High Court showdown over the right to quote the Bible on Instagram could have marked the apex of the culture wars, and provided the political impetus for the Coalitions religious freedom bill.”
But that was the path not taken. The public case around religious freedom was not matched in the court papers.
As it turned out the Folau case did provide considerable impetus for the Religious Discrimination Bill, but ran its legal case on grounds such as restraint of trade, and unlawful termination.
Expect the Financial Review account to be challenged in the next little while by Jamie Pandaram of the the Daily Telegraph, who has provide similar fly-on-the-wall coverage from the other side.