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What’s it all about, Alfie?

The current sporting cause célèbre of Aussie rugby player Israel Folau’s anti-gay public statements is fascinating and one that tends to invite the average punter like myself to mine at the rich seam of phrases tending towards cliché such as ‘a game of two halves’, ‘seeing both sides of the argument’ and ‘one hand … but then on the other …’

Here are links to two articles on the subject for those who are new to the topic and/or need reminding of the issues:

Jack de Menezes’ report on the situation, as appears today upon the website of – THE INDEPENDENT

Sally Rugg on the subject, with a view from a personal perspective, as appears upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN

And, to complete my opening, here’s a basic fly-past the background to the story:

Folau is not only a magnificent specimen of an athlete – a world class international at both codes of rugby and also a former great of Aussie Rules, the Gaelic Football-like game which mixes elements of both soccer and rugby, and in which he acquired his legendary skills at fielding high-kicked balls – but a devout Christian … and here’s my confession of the day, I’m afraid I do not know the exact denomination of Christianity to which he adheres and am too rushed as I type this to go off and do my research on this.

Suffice it for me to hazard the guess that it’s not ‘straight down the middle’ C of E or Roman Catholic – notwithstanding the fact that, even if it were either of them, this would not necessarily prevent him holding the views on homosexuality that he does.

The point is that his religious beliefs on this subject spring from fundamentalist and/or ‘the Bible as an unchallengeable text of God’ origins.

Folau believes that homosexuality is a sin against God and has had the balls and/or temerity to say so publicly. At least twice within the past two years. On both occasions thereafter suffering a great deal of publicity, an Everest-sized mountain of journalistic and media social critical comment and outrage, and condemnation from the rugby authorities in Australia and elsewhere.

He has just had his contract with Australian Rugby cancelled after his most-recent pronouncement on the topic.

For a while now political-correctness has been enjoying its day. Politicians, administrators, stand-up comedians and the likes of the BBC, student unions and sundry ‘rent-a-mob’ right-on campaigners who’ll jump at any chance to ‘have a go’ at all and any attitudes and (more importantly) the achievements of the past – conveniently in passing missing the obvious point that, but for all those, they themselves wouldn’t now be in the privileged position that they occupy today and able to pontificate as they do.

We are in the middle of a UK situation in which anyone who holds any but ‘orthodox’ PC views is ostracised, removed, ‘uninvited’ (or not even considered suitable to be invited) from debates, discussions, speeches and lectures at university institutions the length and breadth of the land.

Where does ‘freedom of expression’ come in all this? A century and more ago such educational establishments were brought up and steeped in academic discussions on every topic under the sun – it was all part of the UK’s and its (Greater Britain) empire’s supposed openness and willingness to push the boundaries of human capability.

We clearly live in different times today.

Israel Folau is – as one famous editorial penned in the Times by William (father of Jacob) Rese-Mogg proclaimed in respect of another cause célèbre (a Rolling Stones drug bust that might potentially have landed them with drugs prison sentences), quoting Alexander Pope – “Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?” – is being hung out to dry for giving expression to his deeply-held beliefs.

I think back to Eric Liddell (of Chairots of Fire fame) and legendary All Black flanker Michael Jones – neither of whom would run or play rugby in their respective cases on a Sunday. The authorities dealt with their situations quite differently – based upon respect for their opinions.

Ah well … times change don’t they?



About Miles Piper

After university, Miles Piper began his career on a local newspaper in Wolverhampton and has since worked for a number of national newspapers and magazines. He has also worked as a guest presenter on Classic FM. He was a founder-member of the National Rust board. More Posts