Just six months after he was sacked by Rugby Australia for homophobic comments, Israel Folau has once again caused a storm after suggesting that the recent bushfires that have ravaged much of New South Wales and Queensland are linked to the legalisation of abortion and same-sex marriage.
The 30-year-old sports star delivered a sermon at The Truth of Jesus Christ Church in Sydney on Sunday, in which he suggested that the devastating natural disasters are no coincidence, instead insinuating that they are a form of punishment from God.
Footage of his divisive 12-minute sermon was posted on Facebook by the church, which shows Folau addressing the congregation. He can be heard saying: “They have changed that law and legalised same-sex marriage and now those things are okay in society, going against the laws of what God says. Abortion, it’s OK now to murder, kill infants, unborn children.”
He added: “Look how rapid these bushfires, these droughts, all these things have come in a short period of time. You think it is a coincidence or not?”
Folau went on to say that Australians “must turn from their wicked ways and repent”, adding: “God is speaking to you guys. Australia you need to repent and take these laws and turn it back to what is right.”
Folau’s comments sparked a backlash on social media as many people criticised the former Waratahs player for his recent outburst. One person wrote on Twitter: “Who told this guy to preach the word of God when all he is doing is criticising people and Australia only and all things bad that is happening now and what about the world????”
While another said: “Spreading division wrapped in a ‘blanket of love’ when nothing could be further from the truth.”
Broadcaster Alan Jones joined in with the criticism, slamming Folau for linking the bushfires and drought to legislation. Speaking on his 2GB morning show on Monday, Jones said: “Israel is a lovely human being, I know him well. (But) Israel, button up. These comments don’t help.”
However others commented on the video shared by The Truth of Jesus Christ Church, pledging their support for Folau and his comments. One person said: “Awesome Izzy, love your boldness for Christ, may He continue to strengthen you, give you the courage to speak God’s truth, we are just vessels used by God to deliver His truth to the world, these people who are against you don’t fully understand that it’s not you that they are against but God! Bless you toko as you continue God’s calling for your life, working to build God’s Kingdom!”
While another wrote: “Thankyou for sharing His words.”
Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia in May after a three-member panel found he had committed a high-level breach of the Code of Conduct. Speaking at a press conference at the time, rugby boss Raelene Castle said she was “really sad” about the matter.
“Rugby Australia did not choose to be in this situation, but Rugby Australia’s position remains that Israel, through his actions, left us with no choice but to pursue this course of action,” Castle said.
“This has been an extremely challenging period for Rugby and this issue has created an unwanted distraction in an important year for the sport and for the Wallabies team. But our clear message to all Rugby fans today is that we need to stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork.”
Chief Executive Castle added: “Israel is a great Rugby player and we are disappointed and saddened by the fact that he will not see out his four-year commitment to the Wallabies and Waratahs.”