The Rev. Robert Jeffress, the virulently anti-gay senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Dallas, has announced he’ll endorse Texas Gov. Rick Perry for president today during the Family Research Council’s Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C.
As Right Wing Watch notes, it isn’t terribly surprising that Jeffress would endorse Perry over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Not because Jeffress is from Perry’s home state, but because Romney is Mormon. In 2007, Jeffress declared that Romney is “not a Christian” and that, “Mormonism is a cult.”
Jeffress’ statement today may be slightly more subtle, but it isn’t hard to read between the lines:
“Some would argue that there are a number of other candidates who possess those attributes as well. However, once the smoke clears in several months, conservative Christians will have a choice to make. Do we want a candidate who is skilled in rhetoric, or one who is skilled in leadership? Do we want someone who is a conservative out of convenience, or one who is a conservative out of conviction? Do we want a candidate who is a good moral person, or one who is born-again follower of Jesus Christ? I believe that in Rick Perry we have a candidate who is a proven leader, a true conservative and a committed follower of Christ.”
Jeffress, of course, has a long history of anti-gay activism. 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.”
UPDATE: Jeffress today repeated his claim that Mormonism is a cult. He also said he thinks gays should be barred from serving openly in the military because “70 percent of the gay population has AIDS.”
“It’s a fact that it’s a gay disease so there’s a reasonable reason to exclude gays from the military,” he said.
Watch video of Jeffress’ comments from ThinkProgress below.