Respected international referee Nigel Owens says Israel Folau went too far when he claimed on social media that gay people would be punished in hell for their sins.
Owens, who publicly came out as gay in 2007, said Folau’s Instagram comment was “enough to push people over the edge”. In a column for news site Wales Online, he urged the dual international to keep such “harmful” opinions to himself.
Doesn’t quite fit with Israel Folau’s “I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions” line from last year. pic.twitter.com/A023XnxRBd
— Ben Coles (@bencoles_) April 3, 2018
“In situations like this, people should keep their opinions that can be very harmful to themselves when saying things like that,” Owens said.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion I hear some of you say, but surely some opinions are better kept to oneself, are they not?
“He needs to respect that people are different to him and to his beliefs, and if he disagrees with it, he should let them get on with their own lives.
“It doesn’t hurt me what Folau, or anyone else like him, says.
— WalesOnline (@WalesOnline) April 7, 2018
“I’ve accepted who I am, but it can affect young people going through those difficult times, believe me, as years ago I was one of them.”
Folau will meet with his employers Rugby Australia and the Waratahs on Tuesday to discuss his use of social media.
At issue is his Instagram comment of last week when, in response to a question from another user, Folau said God’s plan for gay people was “HELL… Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God”. The comment remains under Folau’s post of April 3.
The rugby world reacted strongly. Current and former team mates defended Folau’s right to his opinion but distanced themselves from the sentiment.
Former Wallabies and Waratahs fullback Matt Burke, who called Folau to tell him he had been selected for the World Cup in 2015, labelled the remark “a bit of ignorance”.
“I don’t agree with the comment. I don’t believe ignorance is an excuse as well. I’ve got a lot of gay friends who are good people, they’re not going to hell,” Burke said.
“He has to cop the repercussions. It was a bit of ignorance more than anything else. I don’t think he knew where it would have gone to and escalated.”