A controversial Texas pastor who recently endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry in his run for the presidency, has also championed former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert’s bid for the U.S. Senate.
As the American Independent reported, Robert Jeffress, a senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Dallas, got behind the Perry presidency at the Values Voter Summit last week, for his anti-abortion legislation and “strong commitment to biblical values,” igniting backlash and censure, particularly for his comments characterizing Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith as a “cult.”
Jeffress’ endorsement of Perry put the presidential hopeful in the hot seat, as he faced calls to denounce the pastor’s remarks. Jeffress has a record of condemning Catholicism, asserting that Mormons, Muslims, Jews and gays are destined for hell, and saying gays are promiscuous and manipulative, according to Right Wing Watch. He has also sought to ban books about gay parents and has suggested Islam is an “evil” and “violent” religion that “promotes pedophilia,” according to Media Matters for America.
On the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 late last month, Jeffress took the opportunity to deliver a doomsday sermon http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2011/09/robert_jeffress_of_first_bapti_1.php”>proclaiming that “America’s demise is inevitable” — a fate that he said could at least be slowed by spreading Christianity. Jeffress told TAI he stands by his words, saying, “I believe America’s days are numbered, because the world’s days are numbered.” But, he cautioned, America can delay its inevitable collapse by following Christ’s teachings.
“It could be another hundred years,” he said.
The Perry endorsement prompted the watchdog group Americans United for Church and State to call on the IRS to investigate whether or not Jeffress violated federal tax law with a video endorsement posted on the church Web site.
While Jeffress’ comments riled up more complaints about Perry’s religious ties, little criticism has been sent Leppert’s way, as he vies for the next-biggest prize Texans are chasing in 2012. Leppert’s ties to Jeffress are much closer, and date farther back, than Perry’s.
Months ago, Jeffress threw his support behind Leppert at the aptly named “Pastors for Leppert,”, where he’s quoted as saying:
“I am personally and enthusiastically supporting Tom Leppert for the office of United States Senator from Texas. At this critical juncture in our nation’s history, it is imperative that we have leaders who possess tested leadership skills and an unwavering commitment to Jesus Christ. Tom Leppert has both. As the former CEO of Turner Construction Company, Tom understands the importance of sound fiscal policy. During the past four years as mayor of the city of Dallas, Tom demonstrated his ability to bring together warring factions to accomplish great things for our city. As Tom’s pastor, I know of his deep faith in Jesus Christ. His first act as mayor was to reinstate prayer at our city council meetings.”
“Never has the need been greater for competent and godly leadership in Washington D.C. I encourage you to join me in supporting Tom Leppert for United States Senator from Texas.”
Jeffress is not only backing Leppert’s senate bid, but has, for years, been Leppert’s pastor at First Baptist Dallas. Leppert helped Jeffress preside over a ceremonial demolition of the First Baptist complex, on the way to a $115 million makeover, the Dallas Observer reported.
In light of Jeffress’ anti-gay rhetoric and the church’s anti-gay history, Leppert’s association with the pastor drew criticism from Dallas’ LGBT community in 2009, when he was mayor of the city. The former mayor tasked his openly gay chief of staff with passing along his response to the complaints:
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“During my time as Mayor I have made a point of reaching out to and including all communities in our diverse City and I am very proud of my record. Where my family attends church is a personal matter and one that is entered into prayerfully. My tenure as Mayor should be judged by MY actions, the tone that I have set for the City and a sincere concern for those less fortunate. I will always strive to serve with a humble heart.”