The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission has reportedly been asked to investigate the Christian Lobby’s new fundraising campaign for Israel Folau.
The new fundraiser has raised more than $1.5 million, putting him halfway to his goal to build a multi-million war chest to fund his unfair dismissal case.
Folau asked for public donations to fund his upcoming legal battle for wrongful dismissal against Rugby Australia, which terminated his $4 million playing contract in May.
The appeal hosted by the Australian Christian Lobby has now amassed more than Folau's successful GoFundMe campaign raised in four days, before the fundraising website shut it down on Monday.
The ACL relaunched the campaign for the star rugby back on its own website at 12.01am on Tuesday and donations flowed in at a rate of nearly $1000 per minute.
By 9am on Wednesday, the tally was $1.65 million against a target of $3 million.
Where will the funds go?
However questions have been raised about where the funds will go should Folau’s legal fees not require that much.
Previous estimates have suggested legal fees will be much less than $3 million.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald: “A number of complainants...have raised their concerns with the charities commission.”
The commission told the Herald it "expected all registered charities to meet their obligations under the ACNC Act and the Governance Standards".
“The ACNC can investigate concerns that a charity has breached the ACNC Act or the Governance Standards.
"This may include not pursuing its charitable purpose, not operating in a not-for-profit manner, or providing private benefits to members."
As the Herald states: “The ACL would need to prove it is ‘advancing religion’, for example, by agreeing to help raise money for Folau’s individual purposes.”
Christian Lobby boss grilled
When grilled about the controversy on the Today Show on Wednesday, Australian Christian Lobby managing director Martyn Iles couldn’t confirm where any excess money would end up, saying he could “not go into detail.”
When questioned by host Deborah Knight, Mr Iles said: “It will be distributed in a way that is consistent with …”
Knight then pressed: “Distributed where though?”
“It will go to different causes that are completely consistent with the intentions of the original donors,” Mr Iles replied, insisting it will not be used for personal use.
“Absolutely not personal use, absolutely not the ACL,” he said.
“They bought into Israel because they see him as somebody they want to champion.
“They see him as somebody they identify with, and there is a great deal of trust built up there.
“That is not misplaced at all. This money will be used well and will actually end up making a difference regardless of where it goes.”
Mr Iles was also asked why Folau is asking for the public’s money, when it’s believed he has more than enough to fund himself.
“That it is a very Australian thing to say that someone has been on a good wicket, therefore we just leave them alone,” he replied.
“I think that the cost to Israel Folau has been serious in the sense that he lost his career, he has been banned for life from the two sporting codes he can play.
“He has the funds to live on for a very long time. He is a human. This has taken its toll on him. He found it is a great challenge.
“People want to say there is more with you than against you, but there is the other side. Look what he has been able to achieve.
“We can talk about this for days in the media. They have been able to achieve giving a voice to so many people who want to buy into his campaign, and these people feel like they are part of a movement.
“They are being heard and are actually making a difference.”
“It’s all under this language of inclusion, but not so inclusive that they can include someone with beliefs they disagree with.” @MartynLloydIles from the @ACLobby on the Israel Folau saga and promises the $1.5 million will “absolutely not” be used for personal use. #9Today pic.twitter.com/coUD95G0oF— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) June 25, 2019
RA sacked Folau after he published a biblical passage on social media which said "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" would go to hell unless they repented.
The post was deemed homophobic by sectors of the community and prompted a backlash against Folau, a committed Christian.
Folau says he's being discriminated against on religious grounds and set up initially the GoFundMe page, which had raised more than $750,000 since its launch on Friday.
On Monday, GoFundMe took it down, citing a breach of its terms of service and announcing it would refund the money to donors.
A Folau spokesman has denied his campaign was incompatible with GoFundMe's terms of service and said he was the victim of a campaign of discrimination.