A new fundraising site has been launched by the Australian Christian Lobby to help Israel Folau raise money in his legal fight against Rugby Australia after GoFundMe pulled his crowdfunding campaign from its website.
Folau has raised more than $AU750,000 of his AU$3m target when the GoFundMe website deleted his campaign page.
An alternative fundraising campaign has today been launched, and Australian Christian Lobby managing director Martyn Iles said his organisation will be donating $100,000.
The new site has already raised more than $80,000 this moring.
"The success of the Folau fundraiser was giving 'quiet Australians' a voice," he told the Daily Telegraph.
"By launching an alternative fundraising site to GoFundMe, we are ensuring that the voice of quiet Australians continues to be heard and Israel Folau continues to know that he is not alone.
"Folau's supporters will only be emboldened in their commitment by what has happened. They were concerned about their freedoms, and GoFundMe has yet again reminded them that their concerns are real.
"Israel's case is our case if we want to live free and embrace our beliefs without fear of being marginalised or discriminated against."
Folau yesterday responded to GoFundMe's decision to remove his and defended his New Zealand wife from "sustained attacks".
"The decision of GoFundMe to cancel Israel's fundraising campaign to support his legal action fund is very disappointing. The fundraising campaign was in line with GoFundMe's terms and conditions as well as all relevant rules and regulations," the sacked Wallaby's team of supporters said in a statement yesterday afternoon.
"Unfortunately, GoFundMe has buckled to demands against the freedom of Australians to donate to his cause.
"There appears to be a continuing campaign of discrimination against Israel and his supporters."
Folau's team also revealed his website had been targeted by a "sustained cyberattack", and said there had been a deliberate attempt to vilify his wife, netballer Maria Folau, for supporting him.
"While Israel does not intend to respond in detail at this time regarding the accusations thrown at him or his family, he wants it known that these attacks have hardened his resolve," the statement said.
"Thankfully, several organisations have already expressed interest in supporting Israel's efforts to raise money for his ongoing legal case."
Yesterday GoFundMe pulled Folau's fundraising page and is issuing refunds to all his donors, saying the campaign breached its terms of service.
"Today we will be closing Israel Folau's campaign and issuing full refunds to all donors. After a routine period of evaluation, we have concluded that this campaign violates our terms of service," GoFundMe's Australia regional manager Nicola Britton said.
"As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity. While we welcome GoFundMes engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion.
"In the days since Mr Folau's campaign launched, more than one million dollars have been donated to hundreds of other campaigns, large and small, across Australia. Those acts of kindness are the heart of GoFundMe.
"Our platform exists to help people help others. Australians have shown themselves to be among the most kind and generous people in the world. We look forward to helping more Australians fundraise for causes they care about in the coming months and years."
According to the terms and conditions on the website, users may not attempt to raise money "for the legal defence of … intolerance of any kind relating to race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender or gender identity, or serious disabilities or diseases".
Folau was widely criticised over the weekend after asking the public to donate $3 million to fund his legal fight against Rugby Australia, which terminated his contract in May over Instagram posts claiming "hell awaits" gay people.
He has launched legal proceedings with the Fair Work Commission, and is seeking up to $10 million in damages.
When news.com.au last viewed Folau's page this morning, more than 9800 Australians had given him a total of $760,000. That was before GoFundMe removed it.
There are still 137 pages related to Folau on the website. A number of them are raising money for pro-LGBT charities, though others are more gratuitous.
The backlash against Folau also extended to Change.org over the weekend, where 95,000 people signed a petition demanding GoFundMe remove his campaign.
"Like anyone else, he had an employment contact. As an adult, he made a conscious decision to breach that contract by discriminating against various groups of people globally," said the petition's organiser, Jay Taylor.
"He is entitled to be religious. He is entitled to free speech. What he is not entitled to is disgraceful behaviour, blatant discrimination and to expect the public to mop up his mess when he most certainly has the means to do it himsef."
But Folau has no shortage of defenders. Liberal National Party Senator James McGrath reacted swiftly to GoFundMe's decision yesterday.
"The true test of a democratic nation is not how we treat those with whom we agree but how we treat the rights of those with whom we disagree," he said.
"Freedom of speech is timeless and should not be restricted by the leftist gormless oxygen thieves of GoFundMe."
Senator Eric Abetz phoned in to Ben Fordham's show on 2GB yesterday afternoon, calling it political correctness "gone absolutely mad".
He said GoFundMe was still willing to host "the funding of a mosque in Western Australia" on its site, so "clearly it's not an issue of religion".
"The hypocrisy and doublespeak is there for everyone to see," he said.
Mr Abetz's leader, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, told reporters in Perth he thought the Folau issue "has had enough oxygen".