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Free speech debate needs tolerance from all

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It will be deeply ironic if rugby union star Israel Folau is fired for condemning a bunch of various categories of 'sinners' to hell unless they repent.

After all rugby is supposedly the game they play in heaven.

Yet the deeply religious Folau is likely to be stripped of his ability to play professionally - while it's hard to imagine that many of his colleagues could live up to his list (which included drinkers, for a start).

Of course Mark Twain once said you go to heaven for the climate, and hell for the company. But if Folau is right, heaven may well deserve its reputation for peace and quiet: most of us will be making the trip below.

However, not only has most of the commentary on the Folau issue missed the irony, it has missed the point altogether.

The focus has been on free speech issues. Folau's defenders have claimed that Rugby Australia impinged his right to free speech, while opponents have argued freedom of speech is only the right to express your opinions without receiving a legal penalty. It is not freedom from consequences.

In one sense, the opponents are right: Australia has no substantive protections for free speech and it is broadly accepted that employers can impose some restrictions........

© Canberra Times