Free Speech or Hate Speech

There is a Religious Liberty firestorm brewing in Australia. A popular Rugby Player by the name of Israel Folau is fighting for his career because of a post he made to his Instagram account.

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The post reads as follows,

“Warning. Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, fornicators, thieves, Atheists, idolaters, Hell Awaits You, Repent! Only Jesus Saves”.

As a result of this post, particularly the part about homosexuals, Folau has been sidelined from his team and his 4 million dollar contract is at stake. He is now engaged in a battle with Rugby Australia and predictions are that this could become a protracted court battle.

On one side there are the people who are up in arms about Folau’s post and want him to be fired for engaging in what they deem to be hate speech.  On the other side, persons are of the opinion that as a Christian, Folau is entitled to free speech and hence should be allowed to voice his religious beliefs.  Many generalizations have been made and much blind outrage has been kindled, without really giving a close examination to what his post is really saying. So, let’s examine it.

As it relates to “Hate Speech”, there are several definitions of it and they sometimes seem subjective and hypocritical, as persons would endorse you losing your job for saying something negative about a particular group. But when you say something utterly repulsive and slanderous about an unpopular public figure, for example the President of the United States, it’s called “free speech”. It’s funny how that works. Anyway, these days anything that people don’t like, gets lumped into the hate speech category and has caused it to lose its true meaning.

 As a Christian, Folau should have Freedom of Religion, which is a fundament human right, along with free speech. The United Nations defines Freedom of Religion as “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.  This right shall include freedom to have a religion or whatever belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.“ In this case Folau was “Teaching” his belief on his own social media page, so why should he not have to right to do so?

 Another important question to ask is… was Folau’s post biblical? The point of reference for every true Christian is the Bible and a scan of bible shows that the closest bible text that comes to his post is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 which in the King James Version (KJV) says,

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

That’s a direct quote from the Bible. So is it that Christians are longer permitted to preach and teach what is in the Bible?

The truth is that this issue is far bigger than Israel Folau, it’s an attack on God’s Word and thus an attack on God Himself. However, before I go further, I’d like to establish something regarding “Hell”.

It is not biblical that the lost sinners will be tortured in a place called hell for all eternity. The bible speaks about “Hell Fire” in Matthew 5:22 and the “Burning Lake of Fire” in Revelation 21 verse 8 which says, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death”. I do not know what Folau’s’ belief is on the matter, but for the purposes of this article I am going to go ahead and apply what Revelation 21 verse 8 says in my examination of this issue.

Folau didn’t call for the killing or hurting of anyone. He didn’t say he hated them and that they should not play on his team. He simply identified the sins, identified the penalty, called them to repentance and pointed them to Jesus for them to be saved. What was hateful about that?

In addition, this message was totally free from any earthy/human penalty or compulsion; people could freely accept or reject it. What the world needs is more honest, open and respectful dialogue about differences, not this action of trying to silence whatever viewpoint is different from yours. Dialogue is the only way to bridge the gap, not censorship.

The Roman Catholic Church was involved in this very practice in the dark ages, many persons were martyred for practicing and speaking beliefs which were different from those held by the church. Could it be that we are approaching a time when history will be repeating itself? 

Let’s now look at Folau’s statement from the vantage point of the Christian. If what Christians believe in the Bible is true, that unrepentant sinners will be lost and that only repentance and the acceptance of Jesus Christ into their lives can save them, then how can this be classified as hate speech? It cannot, it is in fact “Love Speech”, as the Christian loves the person so much that they share the truth with them about the wages of sin and invites them to the path that leads to eternal life. So there is a positive intent here, not a negative one. But the problem is that from the very beginning, the unbelieving have had a hatred for truth and those who endeavour to serve the Lord in the right way. Cain had this hatred for his brother Abel who did right in the sight of the Lord. Instead of repenting and patterning his brother’s right doing, Cain killed him.

The next perspective to examine Folau’s post from, is from that of those who see no problem with sin and who do not believe in the Bible. If you do not believe in the Bible and go as far as call it ridiculous or filled with fables, then why are you offended if someone says that you are going to face a “fictional penalty”? It’s like someone saying that believers in Jesus are all going to be condemned to the top of Jack’s Bean Stalk where the Giant will chase us around forever. That’s just a ridiculous statement, so why be offended about it? I think deep down many people have some belief in what the Bible says but have drifted so far from God that they now boldly stand for the will of Satan and he works through them. Therefore they simply cannot stand the thing and the people of God.

As Christians, the Bible teaches that we are to go forth and proclaim the Gospel of truth. That goes much further than just saying “Jesus Loves You.” We must also preach and teach what sin is, using the Bible. 2 Timothy 4:2-5 says,

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

Many today do not like to be reproved or corrected; hence, the current outrage. But it is the duty of every Christian to do this work, in love.

 This is indeed an interesting case and I am eagerly watching to see what will be the final outcome.

However, I believe that this situation is only a foretaste of what is to come and we should carefully learn from situations like this in preparation for the final test. The book of Revelation speaks about the Mark of the Beast Crisis, which is the enforcement of the National Sunday Law, when no one will be able to buy or sell except they have the mark. This is the final test for us all and if we do not overcome the smaller tests, how can we overcome major test?

Israel Folau is currently standing up in his crisis, his current test.

The question is, will you? 

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 Paul White lives in Kingston, Jamaica.