Rugby Australia and former Wallabies star Drew Mitchell have slammed Israel Folau for trying to raise $3 million to pay upcoming legal bills in what could be a landmark test of religious freedoms.
The committed Christian had his $4 million RA contract terminated in May after a post he made on social media citing the Bible was deemed homophobic. It followed a similar incident last year.
A Go Fund Me page set up earlier this week to raise funds for legal costs in his bid for reinstatement has since raised more than $377,000, with over 4500 people donating to the cause.
But Folau's decision to "stand up for the word of God" hasn't come without criticism, in particular from the body he is seeking to take on.
"From our perspective (Go Fund Me) is a place where sick children get support, so it's certainly not a strategy we think is appropriate," Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle told Nine News on Friday.
Former Wallaby Drew Mitchell also laid into the 30-year-old, saying sick children were more deserving of support.
"YOU are in a fight that YOU chose to be in after YOU broke the terms of YOUR contract, the kids below are in a fight they NEVER wanted to be in & yet YOU think YOU deserve donations more than they do??!!," Mitchell posted on Twitter.
"It's no longer about religion, it's about YOU and YOUR greed. @IzzyFolau."
Sydney Independent state MP Alex Greenwich urged people to donate to World Vision's campaign to end child slavery instead.
"If you are truely (sic) interested in supporting a Christian cause ... do not donate to the #Folau fund," he posted on Twitter.
But former Australian Christian Lobby chief Lyle Shelton defended Folau, saying "if Israel loses, we all do".
The flow of donations to Folau's Go Fund Me page spiked on Friday from around $350 after midnight.
The post that cost Folau his $4 million contract was an image uploaded to Instagram which stated drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters would go to hell.
Folau has launched legal proceedings with the Fair Work Commission against Rugby Australia and is seeking up to $10 million in damages.
Asked on Sydney radio 2GB if RA had a social media clause in his contract that would have prohibited him from speaking about his faith, Folau said "no, absolutely not".
After the first incident in 2018, Folau said he was counselled by RA that he could share his religious beliefs but should "do it in a more respectful way".
He believes he has done that while standing "up for the word of God".
"I'm always about sharing that from a place of love and believing in the Bible that people ... have the opportunity to hear that, so they do repent if they choose to and turn away from [sin] and have an opportunity to be in heaven one day," he told 2GB.
Folau says he and wife Maria, an international netball player, have already spent more than $100,000 dealing with RA's internal tribunal processes.
"I believe the termination of my contract is unlawful, which is why I have started legal proceedings against Rugby Australia and Rugby NSW," Folau said.
"Even if I win, Rugby Australia can appeal. There is every chance that a prominent test case like this could take years and eventually end up in the High Court of Australia."
Most of the individual donations were around $50, but one person had tipped in $10,000.