Former rugby player Israel Folau has doubled down on his comments linking the bushfire crisis to same-sex marriage and abortion, telling churchgoers to “preach the truth without fear”.
In a fifteen-minute sermon at the Truth of Jesus Christ Church in Sydney on Sunday, Folau warned we are living in “perilous times” and urged his congregation to “go and do the work that [God] has called you to do”.
“We must have the spirit within us to be able to stand up and preach the truth without fear,” Folau said.
“Every single day we must continue to rely on what God says, and what his word is. Because that’s final, that’s authority, and that’s what gives us the power to be able to go forth and do what he asks us to do.
“The walk is challenging, as we can all see … As it says in [the First Epistle of Paul to] Timothy, ‘perilous times shall come’, and we are in those perilous times.
“At some stage your faith is going to be tested. Your faith is going to be tested whether at work or at school. You might not think it’s going to be tested, but it will at some stage.”
Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia in April for posting homophobic and transphobic comments on social media. He launched legal action in June, claiming he had experienced religious discrimination, and raised over $2 million to fund his legal battle.
Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison slammed Folau’s comments as “appallingly insensitive” and told him to “keep it to yourself”.
“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,” Morrison said.
Opposition Leader Albanese said Folau was “entitled to his view” but called the comments “pretty reprehensible”.
“It would be good if people thought before they spoke. These comments certainly won’t bring anything positive or constructive to the debate,” Albanese said, adding that anyone with “a bit of common sense” should “reject those comments”.
Last week, a vegan restaurant in Auckland where Folau and his wife dined announced it had donated his bill to an LGBTQ group, Rainbow Youth.
“Rainbow Youth donation from Israel Folau … Seems strange doesn’t it?” Gorilla Kitchen wrote on Facebook.
“We don’t turn anyone away at Gorilla Kitchen, because we love everyone, not just animals. So when Israel and Maria came in again a couple weeks ago, we happily served them.
“What they didn’t realise was their money spent at Gorilla Kitchen was going to be donated to Rainbow Youth, an organisation that embraces diversity and offers support for our young and vulnerable rainbow community.”