Do I personally care what Australian rugby star Israel Folau has to say, or does what he say impact me?

The answer is no.

Do I agree with his stance on homosexuality or religion?

Absolutely not.


But do I judge him for it? Again, the answer is no.

However, other people will feel differently and be hurt by his words - and that's not okay.

Wallabies fullback Folau, who is religious, answered a question on Instagram about homosexuality, saying gay people would go to hell "unless they repent their sin".

These are his beliefs and there is a strong argument he shouldn't be made to feel sorry for being who he is. Freedom of speech is something that should be fiercely protected.

But it's not quite that simple. What if saying something under the banner of free speech hurts others? And what if the person saying it is a role model that some people would look up to?

I'm all for people not standing up for what they believe in but when it comes at the cost of potentially hurting people or putting them in a dangerous situation, I can't support that. That's when a line has been crossed.

People should be able to believe what they want, worship any God they want and be who they want to be without being made to feel bad or apologise for being themselves - as long as their actions do not harm others.

Folau's comments have that potential.

There will be people for whom Folau's comments would have cut deep. There will be people struggling with their sexual identity and who are vulnerable.


Katerina Clark, LGBTI advocate for students at Toi Ohomai in Tauranga, really drove that point home in Friday's Bay of Plenty Times, warning Folau's comments could drive some people to harm themselves.

She speaks from personal experience. Clark attended a religious school in Tauranga and was told gays go to hell. It made her hide her sexuality. She felt so isolated, with no one to turn to, she attempted suicide as a teenager.

Many of us feel a certain way about different topics and in some cases our beliefs may be hurtful to others. We may debate our points with friends, colleagues or family, who probably all know where we stand on issues, but we're not role models broadcasting them in a public forum because we understand people may get hurt.

Folau is an influential man who used that public forum to air his views but he did not have to. I think influencers, such as Folau, have a responsibility to publicly behave in a way that does not hurt or distress others.

I hope anyone feeling hurt by Folau's words find solace in knowing there are others standing beside them - thanks TJ Perenara for speaking out - and avenues to seek for support.

You matter.

Where to get help

If you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111. If you need to talk to someone else:Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7); Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7); Youthline: 0800 376 633. Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7) Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7); Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm) Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7); Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155; Samaritans 0800 726 666; Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254