New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has decided not to speak on April 28th trip at First Baptist Church of Dallas, a mega-church headed by a notoriously anti-gay pastor, which claims over 11,000 members and is funding the construction of a $130 million dollar complex in downtown Dallas. In response to the heavy media attention surrounding the proposed visit to First Baptist Church of Dallas, Tebow released a series of tweets rescinding his decision to visit the church. Tebow stated that:
"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!"
The church has come into national attention after the hiring of Pastor Robert Jeffress who has sparked controversy since coming to First Baptist Church of Dallas back in 2007. Among his comments about the unethical nature of Islam and Judaism, Jeffress has also garnered attention for his offensive anti-LGBT rhetoric. In 2009 Jeffress conducted a sermon entitled "Why Gay is Not OK", in which the pastor claimed that Jesus condemned homosexualityn. Nevertheless, the sermon drew many protestors who claimed that not all Christians were willing to support Jeffress's agenda. However, Robert Jeffress has gone even further in his claims that LGBT people are unnatural or immoral by fallaciously stating that 70% of gay people have AIDS. Additionally, the controversial pastor has said that being LGBT leads to pedophilia and to a "miserable lifestyle" of depression, alcoholism, and suicide.
This wouldn't have been the first time that Tim Tebow's athletic prowess has been used as a way to bring attention to potentially controversial movements or organizations. During the 2010 Super Bowl, Tebow appeared alongside his mother in a commercial (not about LGBT issues) paid for by the anti-gay conservative organization Focus on the Family. Yet, Tim Tebow has never publicly endorsed an explicitly anti-gay position. His appearance at First Baptist Church of Dallas, although not an official endorsement of Robert Jeffress's agenda, would have called into question Tim Tebow's choice to spend his offseason associating with such an extremely anti-gay figure.
Although he has never been vocally supportive of LGBT people, Tebow's decision to pull out of his appearance at First Baptist Dallas was a step in the right direction. If Tebow is going to be in Dallas with some free time on his hands, we invite him to visit one of the many LGBT-welcoming congregations in the Dallas area. Jeffress, for what it's worth, says Tebow didn't cancel, he merely postponed his appearance. According to Right Wing Watch:
In an interview today with fellow anti-gay activist Tim Wildmon, the president of the American Family Association, Jeffress said that Tebow told him “he would like to come back to our church at a later date” once the current controversy blows over.
That doesn't sound like what Tebow said, but only time will tell. In the meantime, GLAAD supports Tim Tebow's decision not to use the platform granted to him as a high-profile professional athlete to endorse the anti-gay (and anti-lots of other things) positions of Robert Jeffress. And if Jeffress's anti-LGBT statements played a role in Tebow's decision, it would be an even greater use of his platform if he were to say so.