Former Wallaby and journalist Peter FitzSimons has butted heads with fellow journalist Miranda Devine live on TV over the ongoing Israel Folau saga.
The disgraced rugby player is waiting to be handed his penalty after being found guilty of a high-level breach during a code of conduct hearing.
The breach followed an Instagram post that said “hell awaits” gay people. It is believed Folau will lose his $4 million contract, although it is still possible he may escape with a fine or suspension.
FitzSimons hasn’t shied away from his staunch views that Folau should be sacked, reinforcing his stance on Channel Nine’s Weekend Today.
View the video here.
FitzSimons said: “You can’t do what he did. There is no other organisation in Australia that could possibly countenance one of their employees, the person they put on the poster in the shopfront window, posting that.
“And there is no sponsor, there is no corporation in the country that would say, ‘Hmm, [we] want a bit of that. Take $5 million, we’ll associate ourselves with that’.”
The Daily Telegraph Miranda Devine disagreed and said she didn’t understand how someone can “crucify a man for his Christianity”.
She said: “I don’t understand how you can just crucify a man for his Christianity. All he has done is quote the Bible and you seem to think that it’s OK to destroy not just his job, but his livelihood.
“If you are going to tell every person of faith — which is the majority of Australians have some sort of religious faith — if you are going to tell them that they cannot express their faith for fear of losing their entire career, their entire life, their entire livelihood, then I don’t know that we live in a free country.”
FitzSimons retorted and said Folau wasn’t being criticised for his faith but because he was spreading “homophobic slurs”. He also said most people understand a lot of what is said in the Bible is not to be taken literally.
He also spoke about Australia’s first NRL player to come out as gay, Ian Roberts, who last week issued a plea and said young, gay people were taking their lives because of comments like Folau’s.
He said: “As Ian Roberts said last week, kids in the suburbs, particularly teenagers, are taking their lives because of vilification.”
Devine was not moved, however, and said Folau should be able to believe what he wants, while also arguing he spread his message out of love, not hate.
She said: “You are trying to dictate to him what he should believe.
“Do you think of the young Christian teens who might be hurt by your constant tweeting about the big daddy in the sky? You criticise Christians all the time.
“There were lots of sinners named in there … most of Australia would fit into one of those categories that Israel Folau described as sinners.
“He didn’t say, ‘I hate you people’, he did it as (Wallabies legend) Nick Farr-Jones said, in love.”