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World News

'Persecuted' Christian rugby player Israel Folau attempts comeback with support of Australian billionaire

by Marcus Jones

Christian rugby star Israel Folau is planning a return to the sport in his homeland Australia after he was previously banned for suggesting gay people will go to hell.

Folau, who in his prime was widely seen as one of the best players in the world, hit the headlines after he was sacked by Rugby Australia. He later sued for unfair dismissal before settling out of court. 

Since then he's played in France for the Catalan Dragons. A clause in his contract meant he was unable to make similar comments linked to his faith.

He's now bidding to play for Southport Tigers in the Gold Coast League but needs the approval of league authorities something which they've previously suggested they would deny.

His return is being supported by billionaire Clive Palmer who has said he will fund legal action if Folau is prevented from playing.

"Israel doesn't drink, smoke or take drugs. He has never been charged with a criminal offence," Palmer said in a statement over the weekend. "He loves his wife and his son. He has a rugby playing record second to none.

"If he is not registered by Wednesday, I believe he will issue an injunction in the Federal Court of Australia against the QRL for their discrimination against him on religious grounds."

Palmer previously stated that he expected any legal court to stand against "religious persecution".

"We want an example where people of all faiths can play sport. Religious freedom is a fundamental right in this country," he said.

In a press conference last week, Folau was unrepentant about past comments. Speaking to reporters, he said:  "I stand as a Christian, I stand by the Bible and what the Bible says. Every written word that's in that book I stand by that."

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