If I can't (lovingly) tell gays they're going to hell, then I don't have freedom of religion [OPINION]

Celebrated Wallabies star and fundamentalist Christian Israel Folau has recently come under fire once again. In an Instagram post that lovingly warned his more than 350,000 followers that "hell awaits" a very specific list of sinners, Folau, obviously very much in tune with modern conceptions of morality, included "idolaters", "fornicators", and "homosexuals". This has, to everyone's surprise, gotten him into some pretty hot water with Rugby Australia.

Folau’s post on Instagram was taken directly from 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Spouting the original sentiment of "I'm just expressing my religious belief" and "I'm doing this out of love, not hate", Folau has refused to apologise. More accurately, he has likened apologising and returning to play for the Wallabies as being "tempted by Satan". At a church service in Sydney this past Sunday, Folau spoke in a tone that resonated with the cries of all the oppressed Christians who are unable to remind everyone that certain acts will condemn them to an eternity of burning and torture. "It's been really challenging, but it's also been encouraging to myself to see what my God is doing," Folau told the congregation of devout worshippers. Reading a passage that highlighted the importance of resisting temptation (because, obviously, an offer to apologise and return to work instead of wasting unnecessary time and money on a lengthy trial is the work of the Devil), Folau followed with, "Continue to love those around us and continue to go out there and share the Gospel."

Is there nowhere left for religious freedom?

It seems that there is nowhere left for Christians to voice their opinion. Is there no-one who will listen to this message, this completely new message that the world has definitely never heard before and under which millions definitely don't suffer each year - this message that people who choose to fulfil their destiny as they see fit, at no harm to those around them, are destined to an eternity in Hell? If people like Folau, who fancy themselves true Christians who live and walk in the spirit of Christ, are not allowed to remind us that loving someone of the same sex - be it a product of genes or nurture - is an unforgiveable offence in the eyes of his god, then are we really free? It doesn't matter that for thousands of years, those sorts of mentalities were allowed to subjugate and oppress an uncountable amount of people. It doesn't matter that for the majority of civilisation, these sorts of mentalities ruled; if you try and address the high LGBT suicide rate by addressing hate speech, it is an attack against religion.

Nick Farr-Jones, who spoke to Israel Folau following this controversial post, says that Folau doesn't believe he's done anything wrong. Folau genuinely believes that what he's done is in line with the message of Jesus, a man who is famous for calling out corrupt community leaders and teaching people about love. According to Farr-Jones, Folau's Instagram post was done "out of love", and all the unfairly-treated celebrity wants is for everyone to accept His message (or... you know).

Homophobic rhetoric doesn't have any impact on the mental health of those in the LGBT community... does it?

lgbti suicide rates at a glance australia

Fundamentalist opinions like these don't do any harm to our societies. It's not as if there are too many innocent people around the world being silenced - in every sense of the word - for doing the unthinkable and living this life as they see fit. Never being allowed to love themselves, they fall in love with someone else of the same sex and for that they are deemed unworthy, both of the comforts of this world and of the embrace of a loving God. It's not as if the suicide rates of LGBT youth are, according to the poorly-funded research available, higher than their non-LGBT counterparts. Folau's right to freedom of expression is more important than the right of LGBT people to have an existence that is free of hate-speech. If Folau can't condemn homosexuals in the same vein as he does thieves and liars, then he is the truly oppressed one, not the hundreds of depressed LGBT youth who will take their lives this year.

After all, if we can't protect the feelings of one millionaire man, then why would we care about the millions of poor, unloved, homeless, depressed people around the world?

I mean, what would Jesus do?

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