Writing in The Conversation this week, Australian Uniting Church minister Geoff Thompson said the Israel/Maria Folau debate was "a perfect storm of race, religion, sport, politics, sex, law and rights".
The transtasman tempest, which began with Australian rugby player Israel Folau's fire-and-brimstone posts on social media and subsequent contractual battle with Rugby Australia - and have now impacted on Netball New Zealand and its sponsors after his NZ netballer wife Maria reposted her husband's controversial appeal for donations to help in his legal fight - appears to be showing few signs of easing.
The issues of freedom of speech, religious freedom, racial, gender and sexual identity are hugely complex. They are not isolated and they are not new. But they are coming against a new social wave which is driving significant political change, including through legislation that protects and empowers marginalised groups. It is inevitable, as in generations past, the threat to traditional sentiments and structures is resulting in a reactionary pushback. Such is the pendulum of progress.
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What has changed, however, is the nature of the battleground. The online era has created an arena whereby individuals have an unprecedented, accessible, immediate and powerful platform with vast outreach through which to spread their message - of love or hate - but where the boundaries between fact and opinion have become blurred, where judgement and entitlement often appear to hold more sway than common decency and respect.
What is becoming increasingly apparent in the Folau stoush - faith and religious interpretation aside - is the need for all employers to have clear and robust policies and expectations around social media use. And where employees have a public profile, making the boundaries between work life and personal life more blurred, it seems even more vital. Ideally, people with power and influence will be aware of their responsibilities and exercise care in their sphere of influence. Certainly, workplace, institutions and leaders in a democratic society have a duty of care to all.
Employment law aside, if we believe in freedom of speech, we must accept that we will be offended by others' opinions. As Voltaire's biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
But, likewise, we would do well to remember with our rights comes responsibility - and that includes respecting the rights of others.
In the free speech debate, we are often quick to defend our personal rights under Articles 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion …" and "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression …"
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Sadly, however, this seems at times to have been interpreted by some as the right to push outrage on insult on outright abuse - encouraging extremism on both sides.
We would all perhaps do better to engrave Article 1 on our consciences. To remember - and act - on the principle that: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
That should be achievable irrespective of faith, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, socioeconomic situation - and sporting code or contract.