GoFundMe axes Christian rugby star’s $500k fundraiser, showing need for alternative WonderWe
June 24, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A popular fundraising website has cancelled a fundraiser for a Christian rugby player who was fired for his religious beliefs about sexual sin, making the Christian-friendly WonderWe site even more relevant to social conservatives.
Today GoFundMe shut down a webpage soliciting donations towards the legal fees of Tongan-Australian athlete Israel Folau. Folau was dismissed by Rugby Australia (RA) in May for social media posts his critics said showed hatred for people with same-sex attractions.
The sports star is bringing a suit against RA, arguing that their decision was motivated by religious discrimination. Folau and his wife Maria, also a professional athlete, say that they have already spent $100,000 Australian ($70,000 US) on legal fees.
According to the BBC, GoFundMe donors had pledged $760,000 Australian ($530,000 US) within a week of the campaign, but now the site’s executive has stepped in and said it will refund the money instead of giving it to Folau.
GoFundMe spokeswoman Nicola Britton made it clear that it is not neutral in the argument between Bible-believing Christians and LBGT ideology.
“As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity,” she said.
“While we welcome GoFundMe's engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion.”
According to Rugby.com.au, spokespeople for the rugby star released a statement today decrying GoFundMe’s decision.
“The decision of GoFundMe to cancel Israel’s fundraising campaign to support his Legal Action Fund is very disappointing,” it read.
“The fundraising campaign was in line with GoFundMe’s Terms and Conditions as well as all relevant rules and regulations. Unfortunately, GoFundMe has buckled to demands against the freedom of Australians to donate to his cause,” it continued.
“There appears to be a continuing campaign of discrimination against Israel and his supporters. Israel Folau is very grateful to the 10,000-plus supporters who believed in good faith that their donations would contribute to his case against Rugby Australia.”
The statement also mentioned that Folau’s website had experienced a cyber attack and that Maria Folau was being vilified for supporting her husband.
WonderWe: Christian-positive Crowdfunding
GoFundMe’s decision against Folau is likely to drive Christians and others deemed too socially conservative to such other crowdfunding sites as the Christian-positive WonderWe. Churches are already using the site to launch sponsorships for mission projects and education funds.
Meanwhile, sometimes they don’t have the choice: some people of faith or those who hold traditional values are simply banned by other crowdfunding sites.
“It’s a recurring problem,” Dominic Ismert, founder of WonderWe, told LifeSiteNews in April. “That’s a main reason I built WonderWe.”
WonderWe, a crowdfunding platform focused on faith, family, and friends, seeks to meet the needs of users who, because of the values they hold, may be facing censorship from more secular platforms.
Launched in 2016, WonderWe upholds traditional values, according to the group’s information, and it is pro-life, pro-freedom, and pro-family.
Crowdfunding works and is here to stay, Ismert says, and people like it. Other sites have made a name for themselves, he adds, offering great products with great technology, but WonderWe is different, both in technology and approach.
“We matched that tech – and improved upon it,” he said.
While GoFundMe and other crowdfunding platforms charge 5% or more for each campaign, WonderWe’s individual fundraising campaigns are free. The only charge users see is the third-party processing fee. This means beneficiaries get to keep more of what’s raised.
According to the company’s motto: “WonderWe is about the ‘We,’ not the fee.”
Organizations have a basic option where the standard 5% fee applies or a monthly membership with no donation fee.
Users can create their own domain name for their campaign, design their campaign with their own branding using customized templates, and have multiple administrators.
People who support a cause can endorse a goal and share it through social media. Allowing people to endorse causes helps establish a campaign’s legitimacy and prevent fraud, Ismert said, and to also spread the word.
Ismert and his team are also behind the platform VolunteerMark, which offers software for scheduling and managing volunteers and creating reports about programs.
While neither product is exclusively Catholic, Ismert said, the products adhere morally and ethically to the Catechism as a guide and governance mechanism.
This standard should appeal to anyone seeking to support well-intentioned causes, said Ismert, and many good people who are not Catholic will find these products perfect for themselves.
“They are intended to be culturally aligned and open to Christians and all people of like mind and good will,” he told LifeSiteNews.
Israel Folau first ran afoul of LGBT activists during the run-up to Australia’s 2017 referendum on same-sex “marriage.” Rugby Australia publicly supported the campaign for same-sex “marriage,” and player Folau announced on Twitter that he did not.
“I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. but personally, I will not support gay marriage,” he wrote.
In April 2018, Folau posted a humorous cartoon illustrating the difference between life as one plans it and life as God plans it. When a commentator asked him what was God’s plan for gay people, Folau replied “HELL … Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.”
In the furor that ensued, Folau wrote a blog post entitled “I’m a Sinner Too” that explained his Christian beliefs.
This May Rugby Australia cancelled Folau’s contract weeks after he published a poster on Instagram reading, “Warning: Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves, Atheists, Idolators, Hell Awaits You. Repent! Only Jesus Saves.” Beside the image, he added “Those that are living in Sin will end up in hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.”
Folau then quoted Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, 5:19–21, writing, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
In the wake of Folau’s dismissal, Australians elected a conservative government that has pledged to work to strengthen religious freedom in the country.