Billy Vunipola has received support from the Evangelical Alliance in the wake of the storm created by his defence of a homophobic Instagram post by Israel Folau.
Vunipola has been summoned to talks with the Rugby Football Union to discuss a post on his own account that includes the line “Man was made for woman to pro create that was the goal no?”.
England’s number eight was acting in support of Australia full-back and fellow devout Christian Folau, who stated on social media that “hell awaits” for “homosexuals”.
Peter Lynas, a spokesperson for the Evangelical Alliance – the oldest and largest evangelical unity movement in the UK – defends Vunipola’s position and asks whether religious beliefs are also being accommodated by rugby’s drive for diversity.
“Billy Vunipola has expressed the view of evangelical Christians on marriage and quoted the Bible in the process,” Lynas told Press Association Sport
“He made clear in his post that he was far from perfect himself and doesn’t hate anyone. For this he is now being condemned and threatened with disciplinary action.
“Is he being disciplined for quoting scripture? For holding orthodox Christian beliefs or just for expressing them? Do rugby players have freedom of religion or is this another faith-free zone?
“As rugby celebrates diversity and inclusion, does this allow for orthodox Christian beliefs, or is that the one view you must not have?”
The RFU is refusing to provide any details for its meeting with Vunipola, insisting it remains a private matter.
Twickenham has also been wary at this stage of saying whether disciplinary action will be taken, but if it is decided to pursue the matter further, it would most likely be under the broad charge of ‘bringing the game into disrepute’.
Saracens are conducting their own investigation after declaring Vunipola has failed to meet his responsibility as a representative of the club, while condemnation of his view has also come from Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players’ Association.
On Saturday the 26-year-old, whose mum is a Methodist minister, was booed during his appearance as a second-half replacement against Bristol, who also played gay anthem ‘It’s Raining Men’ on their PA system.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said “I’m sure there’s stuff going on in his head” but will pick him for Saturday’s European semi-final against Munster at Allianz Park.
Channel 4, meanwhile, have removed him as one of the faces of their Heineken Champions Cup coverage.
Folau has been told by Rugby Australia that he is in breach of its code of conduct and will have his four-year contract terminated, subject to the 48-hour window for him to appeal.
Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika has ended Folau’s international career by revealing his comments on social media – his second such infringement – mean he cannot be selected.
Folau is unrepentant over the post, which – along with Vunipola’s – remains visible, adding that: “I believe His plans for me are better than whatever I can think. If that’s not to continue on playing, so be it.”