Lexie Matheson, AUT, looks at the latest harmful words of Israel Folau andwhat it means for the LGBTIQ community and all of us.So Israel Folau is it again.Barely a year after his last homophobic outburst Folau has again hitInstagram with an appalling post anchored in his need to share hisreligious beliefs. ‘Christianity’ he calls it, but it’s as far from ‘lovethy neighbour’ as I am from being an All Black.Why does he do it? Well, it’s one of those religious requirements, thisevangelising, and, in my view, it’s brought unbelievable grief whereverit’s been practiced.My first response was that his meme looked rather like an audition notice,a list of those qualities required if you sought selection to the QantasWallabies rugby team. ‘WARNING’ he shouts. ‘Drunks, homosexuals,adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters. Hell awaitsyou. Repent.’It’s hard to misunderstand his intention, I’ll give him that. He is a godlyman, a man of Jesus, a man of staunch convictions.But the Qantas Wallabies made it clear, mid 2018, that his last homophobicoutburst was totally unacceptable. Until yesterday, I have to admit, hisongoing silence made it seem as though he had at least learned to keep hismouth shut.Not so.This latest mind numbingly stupid outburst has hit our news media like aTrump Tweet. Momentarily gone are the irrational criticisms of JacindaArdern, learned observations about celestial black holes are retired to theback burner, the seemingly endless Kiwi commitment to ‘whataboutism’ issilenced. Because without warning we’re back again to the seasonal topic dujour, Israel Folau’s rampant homophobia.Suddenly, advocates of free speech have become passionate in support of hisright to speak his mind regardless of topic and/or consequences. And theongoing, often vile, debate about curbing hate speech in Aotearoa continuesto divide the country like a 1981 apartheid rugby tour.Fundamentalist Christian’s, likewise, cite Folau’s right to have an opinionand to exercise his freedom of speech, no matter how heinous anddiscriminatory, and to spout it in public forums as much as he likeswithout any risk of censure.They’re right of course, Human Rights law in this country does protect hisright to speak with impunity as long as the theme is religious. Perhapswhen Jacinda’s finished toughening up our gun laws, she might want to takea serious look at this one, too.However this whole thing has very little to do with freedom of speech andeven less to do with Folau’s colonialist religious views though these oftenprovide an angry smoke screen to the truth.I seriously believe that his motivation is more to do with a stubbornrefusal to acknowledge that the words he uses from the platforms of powerhe has access to - 316,000 Instagram followers, 130,000 on Facebook and121,000 on Twitter - do actual damage to the souls he says he’s trying to‘save’.Tuiloma Lina Samu, Pasifika Human Rights Advisor to the NZ Human RightsCommission, writes in a wonderful letter to Folau published in The Spinoffthat ‘an unquestioning belief in and holding fast to the Bible is very mucha feature of our lives as Pasifika peoples. Our cultures are entrenched inour Christian faiths and this has been central to our modern-day culturessince we were colonised. But our peoples also need to remember thatfa’afafine, fa’afatama, fakafefine/ fakaleiti, fakafifine, ‘akavaine andsexually diverse cultures are more ancient and authentically ancestral thanour Christian religion is.’This is critical to a contemporary understanding of Folau’s hatefulramblings and why they are potentially dangerous to exactly the youngpeople he is trying to convert and save. Folau’s not ranting to them, he’sevangelising to save himself.There’s no question Folau’s a hero among Pacific peoples and much of whathe is preaching can be heard from the pulpits of his community. I get thatand, while I have serious disagreement with both the context and thecontent of much of the sermonising, I am neither Christian nor of Pacificheritage so I hold my tongue out of respect.I do believe, however, that an unselfish Christian person might look moreclosely at the consequences of their words and ask ‘just how much damage amI doing to the most vulnerable young people from my own communities whoidentify as LGBTQI and am I able to say mea culpa when tragedies happenthat I have doubtless contributed to?’I have no issue with Folau following whatever religion he chooses but whenit comes to knowingly promulgating messages designed to harm vulnerablepeople then I draw the line.It’s people like me who get to pick up the pieces and I’m happy to do thatbecause our system has cracks in it that people fall through. I fellthrough them when I came out and there was always someone there to help meheal and to help me learn.What is despicable is knowing that I’m picking up the pieces of kids whohave been consciously pushed down by someone they looked up to, someonethey admired who should have known better. With power comes responsibility,and Folau has yet to learn what this means.If you’re upset by the bigotry you’re reading from Folau then maybe contactone of the support groups I’ve attached to this ramble. They’re all great -or if you just want to chat, flick me a message. I’m happy to help.