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

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.”

—  John Wright

Gov. Perry, Mayor Rawlings visit anti-gay First Baptist Church of Dallas

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry, right, greets pastor Robert Jeffress as he exits the stage at First Baptist Church of Dallas on Sunday. (Via WFAA-TV)

The bigoted views of Robert Jeffress may be too extreme for the likes of evangelical NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who canceled a scheduled appearance at Jeffress’ First Baptist Church of Dallas last month.

But Jeffress’ views, as it turns out, are not too extreme for Texas Gov. Rick Perry — and they’re not even too extreme for Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

Both Perry and Rawlings attended a dedication of First Baptist’s $130 million expansion project on Sunday, with Perry delivering a speech that amounted to a sermon in which he appeared to reference homosexuality while using coded language.

“I do believe it is right, under the purview of Scripture, for the church to judge certain behaviors,” Perry said. “But that is totally different from judging fellow sinners. … We must love all.

“We cannot condemn certain lifestyles while turning a blind eye to sins that, in God’s eye, are just as grievous,” he added. “We must love all… welcome all … and be a model for Christ.”

WFAA says Perry’s comments “reflect a shift from previously-stated beliefs,” referring to his anti-gay record, but I wouldn’t go that far. If anything, it was an attempt by Perry to put some space between himself and the extremism of Jeffress — who has called homosexuality “unnatural,” “filthy,” “perverse” and “abnormal” — as he prepares to run for president again in 2016. Unfortunately for Perry, it’s more than a little hypocritical to stand at a place like First Baptist — led by one of the most hateful anti-gay preachers in the world — and talk about God’s love.

As for Rawlings, we’ve reached out to his chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, for a comment on his decision to attend the event. Blackmon did not immediately respond, but we’ll update if she does.

Let’s just hope Rawlings isn’t going down the same road as his predecessor, Tom Leppert, who became a member of First Baptist in an effort to pander to conservative Republican Primary voters as he prepared to run for U.S. Senate. How’d that work out for you, Tom?

Watch Perry’s remarks at First Baptist below.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Jeffress compares gay sex to plugging cord in wrong outlet

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Did First Baptist of Dallas Senior Pastor Robert Jefferss learn nothing when NFL quarterback Tim Tebow canceled his appearance at the church last month?

Tebow, known for how vocal he is about his faith, canceled his April visit to the anti-gay church after a media firestorm over his attendance because of Jefferss’ anti-gay sermons and comments.

But Jeffress is at it again.

Last week he explained that gay sex is like plugging a TV cord into the wrong voltage outlet in an interview with Trinity Broadcasting Network, Right Wing Watch reports. The comparison came after explaining that sex is intended for heterosexuals in marriage.

“He [God] gave the equipment to enjoy [sex] with. And said here is how it operates. It ought to be between a man and a woman and it should be in the security of a marriage,” he said.

Jeffress said disregarding how God intended people to have sex is ignoring the Bible, which he called the “instruction manual for us.”

“Well, it is my TV to do what I want to with it, but I’m going to blow that TV to smithereens if I put it in a 220 outlet!” Jeffress said. “The manufacturer made it, he knows how it operates best. The Bible is God’s instruction manual for us.”

Meanwhile, Tebow spoke at Liberty University last Friday about his faith an encouraged students to continue to serve God in all that they do. The anti-gay university is the largest Christian college in the country.

Watch a video of Jeffress on TBN below.

—  Anna Waugh

WATCH: Robert Jeffress reaffirms anti-gay stance after Tebow controversy

Robert Jeffress

Robert Jeffress

First Baptist Church of Dallas Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress refuted comments that he’s anti-gay Sunday while addressing his congregation about Tim Tebow canceling his April visit.

Tebow canceled last week after a media firestorm surrounding his visit because of the controversial evangelical pastor who has made anti-gay and anti-Semitic remarks in his sermons. He tweeted that “new information” led him to cancel the appearance. But the church released a statement that Tebow wanted to avoid controversy and said he would plan a visit to the church at a later time.

Jeffress said it’s been “a wild week” during his sermon Sunday, adding that the cancellation wasn’t because of him but rather the scripture he preaches about.

“It’s not about me. It’s not even about our church. It’s about the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Jeffress said.

“It’s amazing to me that we’re called anti-gay simply because we say sex ought to be between a man and a women in marriage. Somehow that’s construed to be anti-gay,” he said, later joking that several of the articles made him seem like a terrible person. “Really I never realized what an awful person I was until I started reading these articles about myself.’”

However, Jeffress said the controversy wouldn’t diminish “the excitement we have in going into our new campus that God has planned for us.” The church’s downtown campus has undergone a $130 million expansion and will have a monthlong celebration during April.

Jeffress said he recommitted himself to God during the week and would continue to lead the church according to the Bible. Translation: He’s still going to be anti-gay.

“As long as I am the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, we are not going to kneel before the alter of political correctness in convenience,” he said. “We are going stand up and boldly proclaim the grace of God and the truth of God without compromise so help me God. That is my commitment.”

Watch the video below.

—  Anna Waugh

WATCH: Talkin’ Tebow on CW33, WFAA

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Me and WFAA’s Brad Watson at Dallas Voice HQ.

I’m a University of Florida alum and a Dallas resident, so perhaps it was meant to be: I went on both the CW33 and WFAA-TV this week to discuss Tim Tebow’s planned — then canceled — visit to First Baptist Church of Dallas. My main talking point was relatively simple: First Baptist + Robert Jeffress = HATE. Watch both clips below, and read our story from today’s Voice here. Go Gators!

—  John Wright

Petition calls for Tim Tebow to cancel visit to First Baptist Church of Dallas

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Tim Tebow kisses former Denver Bronco teammate Demaryius Thomas after a game in 2011.

A gay University of Florida alumnus has launched a Change.org petition calling for NFL quarterback Tim Tebow to cancel his April appearance at First Baptist Church of Dallas.

Tebow is scheduled to speak at two morning services on April 28 as part of the church’s monthlong celebration of its downtown expansion. But the Rev. Robert Jeffress’ anti-gay sermons have prompted many to criticize Tebow for associating himself with the anti-gay church, which is “not the type of church a compassionate evangelical like Tim Tebow should be associated with.”

The petition started by Phillip Perry of Washington, D.C., is entitled “Tim Tebow: Cancel Speech at First Baptist Dallas.” As of Tuesday afternoon, only 96 people had signed it.

Perry writes that he has defended Tebow in the past because he is a role model for inclusion, not exclusion. Tebow has never voiced his opinion on gay issues, but Perry insists that “he doesn’t have the same hateful beliefs” as Jeffress and urges him to cancel the appearance to prove it.

“For so many, Tim Tebow is an inspiration on and off the field. He symbolizes compassion, humility and optimism – the type of person who leads a life of philanthropy and inspires us all to do better.,” Perry writes. “While I may not agree with him on every issue, I respect and admire that he has always followed a path of inclusion, not division. It’s because of this that many fellow Gator fans and I have proudly defended Tim Tebow over the years, even when others have attacked and questioned his motives.

“I know he doesn’t have the same hateful beliefs as Robert Jeffress, but he needs to reaffirm that to all of us who believe in him. That’s why I’m asking you to join me in urging Tim Tebow to promptly cancel his appearance at First Baptist Dallas.”

—  Anna Waugh

QUICK TAKE: Tim Tebow and Robert Jeffress were made for each other

Robert Jeffress

Robert Jeffress

NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has agreed to speak at First Baptist Church of Dallas in April.

First Baptist, of course, is led by virulently anti-gay pastor Robert Jeffress, whose “Why Gay is Not OK” sermon in 2008 sparked LGBT protests outside the church. Indeed, Jeffress’ homophobic credentials are too long to list here, but several media outlets reporting on Tebow’s appearance have picked up this passage from one of Jeffress’ sermons last July:

“There are a disproportionate amount of assaults against children by homosexuals than by heterosexuals, you can’t deny that,” Jeffress said.  “And the reason is very clear: Homosexuality is perverse, it represents a degradation of a person’s mind and if a person will sink that low and there are no restraints from God’s law, then there is no telling to whatever sins he will commit as well.”

Tebow, meanwhile, has become well known for revolting public displays of his Christian faith but thus far has steered clear of addressing the subject of homosexuality. However, his decision to speak at a church led by Jeffress speaks volumes.

It’s hardly surprising to see Tebow — the shame of my alma mater — seeking fame and fortune as a religious hoaxster, given that his football career is on the rocks. And it only seems fitting that he’s decided to pay a visit to Jeffress, because they both make our gaydar go off uncontrollably.

UPDATE: There’s now a petition calling for Tebow to cancel his appearance at First Baptist. Sign it by going here.

—  John Wright

Anti-gay Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress urges congregation to eat mor chickin

Robert Jeffress

Amid the gay marriage and chicken chain controversy, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, the anti-gay senior pastor of First Baptist of Dallas, encouraged his congregation Sunday to eat more Chick-fil-A.

Jeffress, who has a long history of anti-gay activism, told his congregation that “this is not about bashing homosexuals,” the CW33 reports.

Instead, Jeffress said supporting the company and the president’s comments supporting only the traditional family was “to support religious freedom in America.”

Upset about the angry reaction from LGBT advocates, Jeffress said “the liberals have gone into a frenzy.” Indeed, they have, with a same-sex kiss-in day planned for Aug. 3. That nationwide event is only two days after Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day Aug. 1, of which you’ll be sure to find Jeffress and his many followers.

When he was pastor at First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls in 1998, he tried to eliminate gay-themed books from the city’s public library. And after joining First Baptist in Dallas in 2008, he sparked protests with a controversial sermon advertised on the church’s marquee, “Why Gay is Not O.K.”

But supporting Chick-Fil-A isn’t about gay bashing for Jeffress. Sure, it’s not.

Watch the video below.

—  Anna Waugh

Anti-gay Grapevine pastor Ed Young compares homosexuality to tall people playing basketball

Ed Young

Pastor Ed Young of Fellowship Church in Grapevine is apparently trying to give First Baptist Church of Dallas’ Robert Jeffress a run for his money as the area’s leading religious homophobe.

Young may be best known for challenging the members of his congregation — or at least the heterosexual, married ones — to have sex every day for a week in 2008. Young staged another publicity stunt earlier this year when he used live animals — a lion and a lamb — in his Easter sermon.

Why does Young need so much attention? Well, apparently he’s trying to support a pretty lavish lifestyle — taking in more than $1 million a year from the church and traveling in a private jet.

Which may also help explain why Young has suddenly become so outspoken in his opposition to same-sex marriage.

After President Barack Obama endorsed marriage equality last month, Young warned that society was treading “on thin ice.” Now Young is planning a series of so-called “Cool-Aid” sermons about same-sex marriage and homosexuality beginning this Sunday.

The idea is that those who support marriage equality — or even just affirm LGBT people — are “drinking culture’s Cool-Aid,” according to the Christian Post:

Young admitted that homosexuality is a controversial topic and that people will have different viewpoints, but insisted that the church should not be silent, and instead it should speak up loudly. He shared that his main hope for the “Cool-Aid” sermon series is to “show the genius of God in his alignment of marriage.”

On the topic of how much choice homosexuals have in regards to their lifestyle, the megachurch pastor said that everyone always has a choice.

“I don’t believe there is a gay gene, just like I don’t believe there is a basketball gene,” he began. “I think all of us are predisposed to things. But we can’t just throw our hands up and say ‘well, I was born tall, and I just can’t help myself, I have to play basketball.’ No, we all have a choice. I believe that maybe some people are born with a leaning toward same-sex attraction. But that does not mean they cannot help themselves.”

—  John Wright

Tom Leppert convinces evangelical leaders he’s sufficiently ex-gay-friendly to represent Texas

I was baffled when I saw this headline in the DMN last week, because the story was over a year late. I now suspect the newspaper was just doing its part to help Leppert distance himself from his past.

In November 2009, after then-Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert enthusiastically joined the virulently anti-gay First Baptist Church of Dallas, I opined here on Instant Tea that the move was purely politically motivated because Leppert was planning to run for U.S. Senate. After calling Leppert’s decision to join First Baptist “a slap in the face to not only the LGBT community, but also to Hindus, Muslims and Mormons,” I wrote that it would be “good riddance for Dallas if he steps down to run” for Senate.

Not surprisingly, Leppert’s office, including openly gay chief of staff Chris Heinbaugh, didn’t take kindly to my comments, and let’s just say I ended up being called on the carpet. But to this day, I stand by those statements, and in retrospect, it would certainly appear as though they were dead on.

When he did finally step down as mayor to run for Senate, Leppert promptly sent out his infamous anti-gay tweet, before coming out against both same-sex marriage and civil unions on his campaign website. During his Senate run, Leppert has been attacked by the other GOP candidates for appearing at gay Pride twice while mayor, but now it looks like he’s managed to win over some of the folks you’d expect to be most critical of his decision to participate in such an “orgy” of “drunken revelries,” in the words of Lela Pittinger.

The Dallas Morning News reports today that a group of evangelical pastors, led by none other than First Baptist’s Robert Jeffress, has formally endorsed the former mayor. The group includes others such as David Dykes of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Randel Everett of First Baptist Church of Midland, etc. (On a side note, we’re sure the DMN’s main headline on its Metro page last Friday quoting Ed Oakley as saying Leppert had “abandoned gays” didn’t hurt his cause among the pastors. At first I was baffled by this headline because it was over a full year late, but now I consider it to be nothing more than a ceremonial political ex-gay cleansing by the city fathers, if you will.)

As I wrote last month, it’s sad to think that on paper at least, Leppert may be the least anti-gay of the four major GOP candidates for Senate. But I don’t care, I’ll still be glad when he comes in third May 29 behind Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former solicitor general Ted Cruz. And in the highly unlikely event that Leppert were to decide to never again run for public office, it would indeed be good riddance.

—  John Wright