Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings defends visit to anti-gay First Baptist Church

Posted on 09 Apr 2013 at 11:30am
Dallas-mayor elect Mike Rawlings and his family were led in a prayer by the Rev. Steven C. Nash of Mount Tabor Baptist Church following his victory speech on Saturday. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and his family bow their heads in prayer at his Election Night victory party in 2011. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings says he chose to attend a service at the anti-gay First Baptist Church of Dallas on Sunday because he believes in tolerance.

Rawlings joined Texas Gov. Rick Perry and others at the service to dedicate First Baptist’s new $130 million facility downtown. Robert Jeffress, First Baptist’s senior pastor, is well known for his extreme anti-gay views and has called homosexuality “unnatural,” “filthy,” “perverse” and “abnormal.”

Rawlings, whose support for the LGBT community has been tepid since he took office in 2011, told Instant Tea on Monday afternoon that he does not agree with Jeffress’ teachings about homosexuality.

“I’ve prided myself on really being a tolerant person of people who don’t live the same way that I live, or think the same way I think, and that’s one of the factors of me being there yesterday,” Rawlings said. “We’re in a different place. I’m a Christ-driven human being but do not read Christian dogma the same way they do. … I think we’ve got to reach out and have dialogue with people we’re not in the same place with, and that’s one of the reasons I was there.”

Rawlings added that his wife grew up going to First Baptist and said the church is an important part of the city. Unlike Gov. Perry, Rawlings did not speak at the service. The mayor, who is a member of First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, said he sat next to City Councilman Sheffie Kadane, who is a member of First Baptist.

Rawlings acknowledged that although he believes in tolerance, he probably wouldn’t meet with Kim Jong-un or Adolf Hitler. However, he said he would attend a service at a mosque even though Islam is misogynistic.

“Tolerance should be our No. 1 focus on this, and we should tolerate people that have different points of view than we have,” Rawlings said. “And if we don’t do that, we are speaking, I think, in a hypocritical fashion.”

Asked whether we should tolerate intolerance, Rawlings said: “I’m not here as mayor to judge people. I’m here to bring the city together, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

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