The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has refused to condemn former Wallabies player Israel Folau for his latest public comments, which linked Australia’s bushfire crisis to gay marriage and abortion.
In a media statement sent to the Star Observer by the ACL, the organisation’s managing director Martyn Iles claimed Folau did not explicitly connect same-sex marriage to the fires, instead blaming the outrage on the media’s interpretation.
“Sermons don’t lend themselves to quick soundbites, and the media’s attempts to paraphrase a sermon has caused some unnecessary angst,” said Iles.
“For one thing, Israel did not claim to know that the current bushfires are God’s direct judgement for same-sex marriage,” he said, despite Folau’s own comments indicating otherwise.
In Folau’s now infamous sermon, posted on Saturday to the Facebook page of the Truth of Jesus Christ Church Sydney, the former rugby star said: “I’ve been looking around at the events … happening in Australia, this past couple of weeks, with all the natural disasters, the bushfires and the droughts.
“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? God is speaking to you guys, Australia, you need to repent.
“God’s word says for a man and a woman to be together … they’ve come and changed this law.
“Abortion, it’s OK now to murder, kill infants, unborn children.”
Iles said while not all Australians hold Folau’s beliefs, those who do should not be persecuted.
“Not all Australians will resonate with these beliefs, but the many who do shouldn’t be threatened or lose their freedoms,” he stated.
The ACL’s defence of Folau stands in stark contrast to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who yesterday joined the chorus of condemnation around Folau’s comments.
Speaking to reporters, Morrison—himself a practising Christian—called Folau’s comments “appallingly insensitive”.
“He’s a free citizen, he can say whatever he likes, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have regard to the grievous offence this would have caused to people whose homes have been burnt down,” said the Prime Minister.
Morrison said Folau’s comments offended “many Christians in Australia for whom that is not their view at all, and whose thoughts and prayers … are very much with those who are suffering under the terrible burden of fire”.
Earlier yesterday, longtime Folau supporter Alan Jones also criticised Folau on his radio show.
“Israel is a lovely human being, I know him well. But, Israel, button up. Button up,” said the host of 2GB’s The Alan Jones Breakfast Show.
“These comments don’t help,” he said.
Last night, former Wallaby Phil Kearns expressed concerns for Folau’s mental state, describing him as “brainwashed”.
“Yeah absolutely, absolutely,” Kearns told Fox Sports when asked if former teammates should reach out to Folau.
“I think it’s gone that far.
“It seems he’s been brainwashed and he doesn’t seem to be in a healthy spot,” said Kearns.