Folau cites rights in rugby legal fight

Israel Folau didn't agree to Rugby Australia's proposed social media restrictions, his lawyers say.
Israel Folau didn't agree to Rugby Australia's proposed social media restrictions, his lawyers say.

Israel Folau says Rugby Australia promised they would never seek to stymie his religious beliefs but when they changed their mind, he refused to comply with their conditions.

That's one of the sacked star's many arguments in the latest chapter of his legal battle with the sporting authority, as the 30-year-old fights to be reinstated and receive an apology.

Lawyers for Folau lodged more documents with the Federal Circuit Court on Thursday, as he sues RA and the NSW Waratahs for unlawful dismissal over controversial Instagram comments.

In an email from RA boss Raelene Castle in April 2018, he was told the organisation respected his religious views.

"Rugby Australia would never ask or expect him to act in a manner or way that is contrary to his beliefs," the documents state.

But months later they changed their tune.

"Rugby Australia attempted to have Mr Folau 'agree and acknowledge' certain purported limitations on his ability to use social media and otherwise comment publicly, but he did not do so," the documents state.

Folau claims he did not agree and RA never followed up the issue.

The staunch Christian, previously in hot water for his social media comments, also denied claims the RA boss warned him there would be "significant consequences" if there was another incident.

"Mr Folau told Ms Castle that he appreciated where she was coming from, but that he had a right to express his religious beliefs about what was in the Bible," his lawyers said.

In one social media post, Folau claimed transgender people were evil and should repent.

In another he paraphrased a Bible passage saying "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators" would go to hell unless they repented.

In the latest court documents, Folau also took a swipe at the appointment of a human rights lawyer to the Rugby Australia-convened three-person tribunal which investigated his behaviour and ultimately recommended his sacking.

Folau objected at the time to the appointment of Kate Eastman SC "on the ground of apprehended bias", partly due to her advocacy for the LGBTI community.

She previously chaired the Law Council of Australia's Equal Opportunity Committee, the NSW Bar Association's Diversity and Equality Committee and the Australian Bar Association's Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

"Rather than accept Mr Folau's concern and appoint another legal practitioner (or, indeed, any other person) to replace Ms Eastman SC, Rugby Australia opposed Mr Folau's application."

RA claims Folau's expressions of faith had always been supported, "provided that these were done in a respectful and inclusive manner".

"Rugby Australia's objection to the posts at issue was not their religious content but rather their tone and attributes," the defence document states.

Folau's contract with RA was terminated in May this year.

His matter will return to court on December 17 ahead of a trial if mediation is unsuccessful.

Australian Associated Press