England No 8 acknowledges "hurt" his comments have caused, but does not apologise
Wednesday 17 April 2019 12:22, UK
Saracens have warned Billy Vunipola for his support of Israel Folau's anti-LGBT comments on social media, describing it as a "serious error".
The England No 8 refused to 'unlike' the Australia full-back's social media post last week, which featured a picture with the words: "Warning. Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators. Hell awaits you. Repent! Only Jesus saves."
Vunipola expressed his sympathy for Folau's views in his own social media post, which has prompted Saracens to take action.
A statement from the Premiership club read: "Senior representatives of the club yesterday held lengthy discussions with Billy Vunipola regarding his recent social media activity.
"At Saracens we are one family, open to all with the firm view that everyone should be treated equally with respect and humility.
"We recognise the complexity of different belief systems and understand Billy's intention was to express the word of God rather than cause offence.
"However, he made a serious error of judgement in publicly sharing his opinion, which is inconsistent with the values of the club and contravenes his contractual obligations.
"The player has been formally warned about his future conduct."
Vunipola issued his own statement in which he acknowledged the "hurt" his comments had caused, but did not apologise.
He said: "I can see that my recent post has hurt people. My intention was never to cause suffering. My intention was to express my belief in the word of God.
"These beliefs are a source of great strength, comfort and guidance in my life. This is deeply personal and does not represent the views of my team.
"Anyone who knows me knows I live with kindness and love towards ALL people. I have faith. My Christian faith has sustained me through the ups and many downs of my life. God has given and continues to give me many reasons in life to be grateful."
Vunipola explained his decision not to 'unlike' Folau's social media post last week, writing on Instagram: "So this morning I got 3 phone calls from people telling me to 'unlike' the @izzyfolau post.
"This is my position on it. I don't HATE anyone neither do I think I'm perfect. There just comes a point when you insult what I grew up believing in that you just say enough is enough, what he's saying isn't that he doesn't like or love those people.
"He's saying how we live our lives needs to be closer to how God intended them to be. Man was made for woman to pro create that was the goal no?
"I'm not perfect I'm at least everything on that list at least at one point in my life. It hurts to know that. But that's why I believe there's a God. To guide and protect us and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
Following Vunipola's social media post last week, the RFU said it would meet him with to discuss the matter.
In an additional post on Twitter, Folau also said "the devil has blinded so many people to this world" after Tasmania made it optional to declare the gender of children on birth certificates.
Rugby Australia have begun the process of terminating his contract, meaning he is set to miss the World Cup.