The brash, young Christian campaigner behind sacked Wallabies star Israel Folau’s $2million fighting fund is a computer nerd who studied to become a lawyer.
Martyn Iles, the 29-year-old managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, shot to prominence this week after Go Fund Me shut down Folau’s crowd funding campaign to fight Rugby Australia in the Fair Work Commission.
The self-described ‘computer geek’ stepped up late on Monday, setting up a new plea for donations which raised more than $2million in just two days, or almost triple the $765,000 from a politically-correct American crowd-funding site.
As the donations poured in from ‘quiet Australians’ concerned about religious freedom, Mr Iles was in demand for TV interviews, appearing on The Project, Sunrise and Today.
His public profile surged, little more than a year after he replaced Lyle Shelton as the face of the ACL with an office in Canberra.
Overnight, he became Folau’s chief ally after Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle last month sacked the Wallabies star for tweeting that ‘drunks, homosexuals, fornicators, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters’ needed to repent for their sins or they would go to Hell.
His paraphrasing of a Biblical verse from Corinthians, in the New Testament, was arguably about more than just a breach of an employment contract.
The man leading the fight, Mr Iles, is the son of a Brisbane doctor who grew up in a family of committed Christians and studied law at the University of Queensland.
He had his sights set on becoming a barrister but at age 24, he was offered a role as a chief-of-staff with the ACL.
Two years later, when gay marriage was a hot political topic, he was instrumental in setting up an ACL offshoot called the Human Rights Law Alliance.
The name was a subtle dig at the Australian Human Rights Commission, then led by Gillians Triggs.
At the time, his predecessor as ACL managing director, Mr Shelton, was viciously targeted on social media for opposing gay marriage, which then Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull supported.
While the Marriage Act was changed in 2017, following overwhelming support for same-sex marriage in a postal vote survey, the issue of religious freedom hasn’t faded.
Folau’s case, which went before the Fair Work Commission on Friday, is a case in point.
‘A lot of people who bought into Israel Folau’s campaign, who put the money in, because they saw something about Israel’s case that they felt resonated with them,’ Mr Iles told Today program this week.
‘They feel stifled. They feel a pinch of political correctness.
‘They’ve felt similar sorts of moods in their own personal lives, in their own workplaces.’
Little more than a year ago, Mr Iles told Eternity News, a Christian website, he was a ‘computer geek before everybody else’ who had grown up wanting to be a doctor.
Illustrating how his life took a different turn, Iles was named after Martyn Lloyd Jones, a British leader of the evangelical movement during the 1960s and 1970s.