The Australian Christian Lobby is hosting a fundraising effort on its website for the former Wallabies star Israel Folau after his GoFundMe page was shut down.
As at 7am Tuesday, almost $50,000 had been donated via the link on the ACL site, with the group also committing to tip in $100,000 to Folau’s legal challenge. By 8.30am, $250,000 had been raised.
“On behalf of the Australian Christian Lobby, I have spoken to Israel Folau to let him know that ACL will be donating $100,000 to his legal defence, because it’s right and it sets an important legal precedent,” the ACL’s managing director, Martyn Iles, says on the website, which says its fundraising target was $3m.
“All gifts you give on this web page will be deposited into a trust account to pay for Israel Folau’s legal case,” the site say.
Folau has been trying to build up a $3m war chest from public donations to fund his legal battle against Rugby Australia, which terminated his $4m contract in May.
RA’s decision came after Folau posted a biblical passage on social media which said “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” would go to hell unless they repented.
Folau said he had been the victim of discrimination on religious grounds and set up the GoFundMe page, which raised more than $750,000 in about four days.
But on Monday GoFundMe took the page down, citing a breach of its terms of service and announcing it would issue refunds to the more than 7,000 donors.
“While we welcome GoFundMe’s engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion,” said GoFundMe Australia’s regional manager, Nicola Britton.
A spokesman for Folau denied his campaign was incompatible with GoFundMe’s terms of service: “Unfortunately, GoFundMe has buckled to demands against the freedom of Australians to donate to his cause,” the spokesman said.
“There appears to be a continuing campaign of discrimination against Israel and his supporters.”
ACL confirmed on Tuesday Folau had accepted its offer to host a new online appeal for funds, which would be transferred to a trust account to pay for his legal bills.
“So, please give generously today to help Folau stand for your religious freedoms,” Iles says on the website.
Folau has launched legal proceedings with the Fair Work Commission against RA and is seeking up to $10m in damages.
More than 95,000 people had signed an online petition calling on GoFundMe to take down Folau’s page.