Gays Practice ’Brainwashing,’ Says ’Mormon = Cult’ Cleric
The same evangelical preacher who referred to GOP hopeful Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith as a "cult" has a similar record of disparaging speech when it comes to LGBTs, Rolling Stone Magazine reported Oct. 12 in its "Wingnut Watch" column.
On Oct. 7 Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Romney’s fellow GOP contender for the party nomination in next year’s presidential race, attended a Washington, D.C. "Values Voter Summit." Perry’s introduction to the conservative Christian audience was made by First Baptist Church of Dallas preacher the Rev. Robert Jeffress, who commented that Perry, unlike another unnamed contender, shared the audience’s views and values. Though Romney was not mentioned by name, it was generally understood that Jeffress was referring to him.
Jeffress later told reporters that Mormonism was a "cult."
Romney denounced the characterization in an address he made in New Hampshire on Oct. 11. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie officially gave Romney his endorsement at the event.
"Gov. Perry selected an individual to introduce him who then used religion as a basis for which he said he would endorse Gov. Perry and as a reason to not support me," Romney told the New Hampshire audience, NPR reported the same day.
"And then Gov. Perry said that introduction just ’hit it out of the park,’ " Romney recounted. "I just don’t believe that kind of divisiveness based on religion has a place in this country," Romney added.
"I would call on Gov. Perry to repudiate the sentiment and the remarks made by that pastor," added Romney.
Rolling Stone Magazine reported that Jeffress’ prejudicial comments have not been restricted to matters of religion, but have, in the past, extended to sexual minorities as well.
"In a sermon in August titled ’What to Say to Those Who Are Gay’ he sought to dispel the ’myth’ of monogamous, committed gay relationships," the Rolling Stone article reported, adding that Jeffress had referenced a "questionable study from the Netherlands" that purported to show that same-sex relationships typically endure only about 18 months.
Despite the fact that half of heterosexual marriages end before five years, Jeffress held up mixed-gender couples as a model, telling his congregation, "it is a myth that homosexuals engage in the same kind of monogamous healthy relationships as heterosexuals."
"In the past, Jeffress has claimed that gays and lesbians are using ’brainwashing techniques’ to ’inject homosexuality’ into the culture and that ’homosexuality is being crammed down our throats.’ " the Rolling Stone article added.
Jeffress’ recent comments echo statements he made in 2007, when he declared that Romney was "not a Christian," reported the Dallas Voice on Oct. 7.
In his Values Voters Summit comments, Jeffress told listeners that "conservative Christians will have a choice to make" as the time approaches to nominate a Republican candidate to run against President Obama.
"Do we want a candidate who is skilled in rhetoric, or one who is skilled in leadership?" Jeffress asked. "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," the Dallas Voice noted. "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.’"
More recently, Jeffress spoke against the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," the 1993 that kept openly gay and lesbian Americans out of military service until the law was finally retired last month.
Jeffress claimed that "70 percent of the gay population has AIDS," and used this wildly exaggerated assertion to bolster his opposition to openly gay and lesbian servicemembers.
"It’s a fact that it’s a gay disease so there’s a reasonable reason to exclude gays from the military," Jeffress declared.
Other Republican contenders also denounced Jeffress’ remarks.
"The fact that some moron can stand up and make a comment like that, you know, first of all, it’s outrageous," Jon Hunstman said during an Oct. 10 CNN appearance, an Oct. 13 article published in the Miami Herald reported.
"Second of all, the fact that we are spending so much time discussing it makes it even worse," Huntsman added. "As far as I’m concerned, let’s stick to the big issues that really matter and leave religion off the table. Last I looked, that wasn’t a prerequisite or a requirement for the presidency."
Perry has so far declined to refute Jeffress’ comments.
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.