The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission has been asked to investigate the Australian Christian Lobby over its role in helping Israel Folau raise more than a million dollars for his legal fight against Rugby Australia.
Folau raked in more than $1.2 million in donations on Tuesday through a relaunched ACL fundraising platform, despite having a GoFundMe page banned on Monday due to a breach of the website's terms and conditions.
It was also revealed on Tuesday that Australia's largest crowdfunding platform, MyCause, also knocked back an initial request from Folau's camp to relaunch his fighting fund.
The renewed support for Folau comes as Gillian Triggs, the former Australian Human Rights Commission president, said she believed it was important to protect the rugby union star's right to freedom of speech.
"I don't think employers should have that power [to sack someone] and I don't think that one should lose one's job for putting a view in good faith that you have put, particularly as a reflection that could be a religious view," said Ms Triggs on ABC News.
"It is a very wide view. It encompasses a lot of us - we're all going to go to hell. I think it is really foolish and disproportionate to prevent him from preaching something that I think he probably believes quite deeply as a matter of religious expression."
A number of complainants, however, have confirmed to the Herald that they have raised their concerns with the charities commission over the fundraising role played by the ACL.
In a statement, the commission said 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," the statement said. "This may include not pursuing its charitable purpose, not operating in a not-for-profit manner, or providing private benefits to members."
ACL's managing director Martyn Iles was contacted for comment.
Folau was sacked by RA for posting a photo to social media which said homosexuals, among other groups such as drunks and atheists, were destined for hell unless they repented their sins.
RA and Folau's legal teams will meet for conciliation on Friday before the Fair Work Commission. The matter is then expected to reach the Federal Court.
Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, said he was concerned that Folau's right to express his faith was being "denied and vilified".
"The original post on Instagram canvassed some basic tenets of the Christian faith," Dr Davies said. "It was not the entire Christian message but it was posted without malice and from a place of deep conscience and concern. It encompassed all people, for we are all liars. It was posted with respect and with urgency. It had nothing to do with rugby and it should have been his right as a citizen to speak of what he believes without threat to his employment."
Meanwhile, Folau may be able to claim some of the legal expenses used to fight his wrongful dismissal action as a tax deduction, while keeping the donations.
Tax and Super Australia tax counsel John Jeffreys said legal expenses were not generally tax deductible in unfair dismissal cases because the person was no longer earning income and therefore the costs were treated as being of a capital nature.
"However, there are situations in which legal expenses can be tax deductible," Mr Jeffreys said.
"If you get an amount that's in compensation for lost wages then that itself is income and therefore it makes the expenses tax deductible."
Folau is suing for $5 million in lost salary in addition to the loss of commercial opportunities such as future contracts and sponsorship deals, as well as the cost of missing out on the Rugby World Cup and the chance to become the greatest Wallaby try-scorer.
Mr Jeffreys said in such cases compensation would usually be awarded in a lump sum and the tax office would then treat the cost of his legal action as a capital expense, which would not be tax-deductible.
But if he was claiming that he had been wronged in the termination of his employment, any compensation he received would not be subject to capital gains tax.
- The Age/SMH