Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, an evangelical Christian, criticized rugby star Israel Folau for linking eastern Australia's brushfire crisis with the wrath of God.
Speaking to members of Sydney's Truth of Jesus Christ Church on Sunday, the former Wallabies player who was ousted in May for posting similar comments on social media, implied the natural disaster indicates God's judgement given the nation's recent decision to legalize same-sex marriage and pass other abortion-related laws.
"God's Word says for a man and a woman to be together, one man and one woman in the covenant of marriage to be together," he said.
"Abortion — it's now okay to murder and kill unborn children and they deem that to be okay."
He added: "Look how rapid these brushfires, these droughts, all these things have come in a short period of time, do you think it's a coincidence or not?
"God is speaking to you guys — Australia, you need to repent and take these laws and turn it back into following what is right by God," Folau said.
His comments drew a rebuke from the Prime Minister Morrison, telling journalists Monday that the former rugby star can say whatever he wants as a free citizen "but that doesn't mean he can't have regard to the grievance [and] offence this would have caused to the people whose homes have burnt down."
Folau's comments, he said, were "appallingly insensitive."
The rugby player is at present suing Rugby Australia regarding the termination of his multi-million dollar athletic contract. He was formally dismissed for breaching the RA's Professional Players' Code of Conduct following comments he made on his Instagram account, specifically that "hell awaits adulterers, drunks and homosexuals."
Folau maintains the termination was not lawful on religious discrimination grounds.
Wildfires have been besieging New South Wales in recent weeks and over 158,000 hectares of land have been burned, according to the Guardian Monday.
Sydney, Australia's largest city, was notably smoky on Tuesday, with the haze obscuring high-rise buildings and leading dozens to seek medical assistance after wildfires pushed the air quality to beyond "hazardous" levels, according to Fox News. Health officials issued warnings, telling people with asthma and other breathing issues to stay indoors and avoid outdoor exercise.
"Most of the coastal areas of New South Wales, where Sydney is located, are under very high fire danger with 48 fires burning across the state," the outlet reported Tuesday.
Thus far this season, 577 homes in New South Wales have been destroyed, and many others remain at risk.