Former Florida Gators and New York Jet Tim Tebow is interviewed prior to the Allstate Sugar Bowl between the Florida Gators and the Louisville Cardinals at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 2, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Credit: Getty Images
New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has ignited controversy after canceling his upcoming appearance at First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.
Rev. Robert Jeffress, the head faith leader at the house of worship, has come under fire in the past for some contentious comments. Aside from sharing his stance about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (that it isn't a Christian denomination), the pastor has also been criticized for statements he's uttered about other religious systems and gays.
Let's just take a brief trip down memory lane. In Oct. 2011, Jeffress said that then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney isn't a Christian as a result of his allegiance with the Mormon faith (later, he still ended up supporting the candidate in the general election). That same month, Jeffress described both Islam and the Mormon faith as coming from "the pit of hell." See his comments, below:
And RightWingWatch, among other outlets, has accused the pastor of being virulently anti-gay. Take a look at the description that RWW recently gave of Jeffress' past comments about homosexuals:
He has described gays and lesbians as “perverse,” “miserable” and “abnormal” people who engage in an “unnatural” and “filthy practice” that will lead to the “implosion of our country.” Jeffress argues that the gay community employs Chinese “brainwashing techniques” in order to have homosexuality “crammed down our throats.”
Fast forward to the newest controversy surrounding Tebow and his decision to back out of a planned event at Jeffress' church. A representative from the First Baptist Church apparently told entertainment site TMZ that the New York Jets quarterback felt pushed by the media to cancel his April 28 appearance. Some are naturally wondering if the choice was made of his own accord -- or if it was rooted mainly in the criticism he was already receiving for an association with Jeffrees.
Just consider what CBS Sports' Gregg Doyel wrote about Tebow earlier this week, prior to the cancellation:
Tim Tebow is about to make the biggest mistake of his life.
Tebow has agreed to speak at a hateful Baptist preacher's church, an evangelical cretin named Robert Jeffress who does the work of the Lord sort of like Westboro Baptist in Topeka, Kan., does the work of the Lord.
Not at all.
Jeffress isn't as bad as Westboro. He doesn't send his flock to funerals of U.S. soldiers and have his sheep yell awful things like, "God hates fags." But he comes close. Too close. He believes, he has said, "It's a fact that [AIDS is] a gay disease so there's a reasonable reason to exclude gays from the military."
The church is responding to the news with prepared statements to media.
"We are saddened that Mr. Tebow felt pressure to back out of his long-planned commitment from numerous New York and national sports and news media who grossly misrepresented past comments made by our pastor, Dr. Robert Jeffress, specifically related to issues of homosexuality and AIDS, as well as Judaism," the rep said in a statement to TMZ.
TheBlaze received a similar response from the church -- one that also went on to defend Jeffrees against claims that critics have waged against him. Additionally, it took aim at societal changes that have made some of the pastor's traditional stances more controversial than they would have been in the past. The church claims that, while the Bible has remained constant, society has not.
A screen shot that shows Tebow's face advertised for an April 28 appearance at the church
"As a Christian pastor, Dr. Jeffress takes a biblical approach to moral and social issues, closely following his duty to preach ‘the whole counsel of God,’ and not just address issues that are politically correct," the release reads. "First Baptist is a church built on the truth of Scripture, even though at times that approach can be perceived as controversial or counter to the prevailing winds of culture."
As for the First Baptist's account of the cancellation, the church maintains that Tebow called to remove himself from the scheduled event, claiming that for "personal and professional reasons he needed to avoid controversy." But rather than separating himself entirely, Jeffrees' staff claim that the famed football player would still like to speak at the church sometime in the future.
In a series of tweets, Tebow addressed the controversy this morning, writing:
While I was looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ's unconditional love with the faithful members of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas in April, due to new information that has been brought to my attention, I have decided to cancel my upcoming appearance. I will continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope and Love to all those needing a brighter day. Thank you for all of your love and support. God Bless!
TheBlaze also reached out to Tebow's representatives to clarify details, but we have not yet received a response.