A leading Australian rugby player has suggested that Australia’s bushfires and droughts are punishments from God for the country’s same-sex and abortion laws.
“Look how rapid, these bushfires, these droughts, all these things have come, in a short period of time. You think it’s a coincidence or not?” said Israel Folau during a 10-minute sermon, posted to the Truth of Jesus Christ Church Sydney Facebook page.
“God is speaking to you guys, Australia, you need to repent … what you see right now, out in the world, it is only a little taste of what God’s judgment is coming,” he added.
Earlier this year the 30-year-old Folau, who is a devout Christian, was sacked by Rugby Australia following a homophobic Instagram post, which has not been deleted, in which he said “hell awaits” gay people.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has labeled Folau’s comments connecting Australia’s bushfires with the country’s same-sex and abortion laws as “appallingly insensitive.”
Morrison defended the rugby player’s right to free speech as a “free citizen” but condemned the remarks.
“He is a free citizen. He can say whatever he likes but that doesn’t mean he can’t have regard to the grievous offense this would have caused to the people whose homes have been burnt down,” Morrison told reporters on Monday.
Australia is reeling from deadly bushfires which have ravaged the states of Queensland and New South Wales this past month. The blazes have been exacerbated by hot, dry weather.
In the video, Folau reads a passage from the Book of Isaiah in the Bible, The Lord’s Devastation of the Earth: “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants there of; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.
“Therefore have a curse devour the earth; and they that dwell there in are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned up, and few men left.
“Because they have transgressed the laws, they have changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant,” he continues.
Folau then proceeds to connect the legalization of same-sex marriage and abortion to the natural disasters blighting Australia.
Australian Labor leader Anthony Albanese aso called Folau’s comments “reprehensible.”
“Some people might not want to give his comments any more oxygen than they deserve, and I get that. But for people in leadership positions, it’s on us to reject this rubbish. To call it out.”
Meanwhile, Australian broadcaster Alan Jones who has been a vocal supporter of Folau throughout his fight with Rugby Australia, said it was time for Folau to “button up,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Folau made 73 appearances for the Wallabies. He previously played rugby league – a 13-man version of the game with different rules – for Australia before switching to Australian Rules football in 2011 and then rugby union in 2012.