Tebow to speak at controversial church
On Sunday, April 28, Tim Tebow will be speaking at a Dallas Baptist megachurch headed by evangelical reverend Robert Jeffress, who has spoken out in the past against Muslims, Jews, Mormons and homosexuals.
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The 11,000-member church will host Tebow weeks after the congregation inaugurates a new $130 million campus. And while the Jets quarterback often talks about God's role in his life, Jeffress' controversial background doesn't mesh with Tebow's squeaky-clean public persona.
In the past, Jeffress has claimed that Islam promoted pedophilia, said Judaism "leads people to an eternity of separation from God in hell," and reportedly reduced Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists and others to members of cults. (Jeffress criticized Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for his Mormon faith but eventually supported him over Barack Obama, whose reelection he said would "pav(e) the way for the future reign of the Antichrist.") Jeffress denounced the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by observing that "It's a fact that [AIDS is] a gay disease so there's a reasonable reason to exclude gays from the military.”
Despite Tebow's well-crafted image, he's also familiar with controversy. Three years ago, he and his mother were featured in a pro-life commercial that aired during the Super Bowl.
"I know some people won't agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe," Tebow said. "I've always been very convicted of it (his views on abortion) because that's the reason I'm here, because my mom was a very courageous woman. So any way that I could help, I would do it."
Jehmu Greene, former president of the New York-based Women's Media Center, responded at the time by saying that "An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year -- an event designed to bring Americans together."
Last spring, Tebow spoke in front of 30,000 people at Celebration Church, in Georgetown, Texas, where his message wasn't much different from what he's said during postgame press conferences throughout his football career.
“It's OK to be outspoken about your faith,” he told the onlookers during an Easter service last year (via the New York Daily News). “First and foremost it is what this country was based on: one nation under God.”
As for what we can expect in April, First Baptist's website doesn't offer much in the way of details: "NFL Quarterback and Philanthropist Tim Tebow lives a life that consistently reflects his values, and he is dedicated to helping people and communities in need. … (He) will join us as we conclude our month of grand opening events!"