Israel Folau is heading to the Federal Court on the basis that he was fired for practising his religion. However, the law is stacked against him.
As you read this, the lawyers of Israel Folau are travelling to the Fair Work Commission seeking an estimated $10 million payout as a result of Rugby Australia tearing up Folau’s contract.
The English of Folau’s application is as follows: “The termination has cost Mr Folau the best years of his rugby career, participation at the Rugby World Cup, the chance to become the greatest Wallaby try-scorer (a decades-old record he was likely to break), and the associated exposure and opportunities. As well as around $5 million in lost salary, Mr Folau will claim in respect of the loss of these opportunities (renewal of contract, sponsorships, etc). The damages will be particularised in due course, but will be substantial. In addition, Mr Folau will seek civil penalties.”
Ostensibly, Folau’s defence hinges on a section of the Fair Work Act (772), which prevents the individual from being sacked on the basis of their religion. Folau himself said, “No Australian of any faith should be fired for practising their religion.”
Which is fair enough…until you look closer at the law.
While international human rights law protects the expression of one’s religion, it does so on the basis that that expression doesn’t impact the rights of another.
Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that: “Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.”