Israel Folau.
Israel Folau. Getty Images

Bundy religious leader defends Folau over "gay" comments

A BUNDABERG pastor has backed rugby union star Israel Folau, saying the Wallabies player was simply providing a "faith-based answer to a faith-based question".

Heritage Christian Centre pastor Errol Buckle said Folau was entitled to his own beliefs and right to freedom of speech.

Pastor Buckle said the "storm in a teacup" incident illustrated the reverse discrimination at play against those who held beliefs consistent with the teachings of the Bible.

Folau has found himself at the centre of a political storm when he said gay people were destined for hell "unless they repent of their sins and turn to God".

His comments have put pressure on Rugby Australia as major sponsors Qantas threaten to pull their support if further comments are made.

Asked about the situation by the NewsMail, Pastor Buckle said Folau had been unfairly targeted and silencing him was not right.

He said a large percentage of the community, about 40%, voted against same-sex marriage last year.

"His comments have come out of The Bible's teaching," Pastor Buckle said.

"He was just answering the question he was asked.

"I have friends in same-sex relationships, they know my thoughts, but we respect each other.

"Qantas is sponsoring a team, not an individual."

He said the airline wasn't being reflective of a large section of the community with its position of same-sex support.

Pastor Buckle said a modern issue was that television and movie stars spoke about political issues they knew little about.

"They are good at acting, but the say something as if it's a statement of truth," he said.

"How many famous people swore to leave the US if Donald Trump won the presidency and how many actually did?"

Local rugby union player Reece Maughan said he didn't believe in what Folau had said but respects that everyone is entitled to their opinion.

"I have had no issues with playing against or being a teammate of a gay rugby player," Mr Maughan said.

"In my opinion they are a person and should be treated with the same respect that you would show anyone else."

Mr Maughan said he didn't think the comments would give rugby a bad name, but they wouldn't be doing Folau any favours.

"Some people may support him and some may disagree, but having it come from an athlete at the top of the game, that is going to reach a wide audience and it's going to stick with him for a long time," he said.