A pastor with a long history of disparaging the LGBT community preached to President Trump and his family in a private service just hours prior to the president’s taking the oath of office, reports CNN.
The pastor, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, led the service at St. John’s Episcopal Church, across the street from the White House as part of what is a modern Inauguration Day ritual for incoming presidents. About 300 people attended the event, which was closed to the public and the press, according to Rev. Luis León, the rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
The pick of Jeffress is one that plays well with the evangelical community that constitutes the base of the Republican Party, but is guaranteed to inflame liberals and Democrats, as Jeffress has not only made remarks about the LGBT community, but inflammatory remarks about other faith communities, including Muslims, Mormons, and Catholics. Jeffress, who leads a 12,000-member megachurch in Dallas, is a frequent guest on Fox News and other right-wing outlets.
Among some of Jeffress’ greatest anti-LGBT remarks are that gays live a “miserable” and “filthy” lifestyle that leaves them predisposed to “depression, suicide, and alcoholism.” He has said that promoting LGBT rights will result in the “inevitable implosion of our country,” reports Right Wing Watch.
“Why is there such a high incidence of disease among homosexuals? Because ladies and gentlemen, what they are doing is more than holding hands and kissing, OK? They are engaged in the most detestable, unclean, abominable acts you can imagine,” Jeffress said in a 2012 radio interview. “Because what they are doing is unnatural, it goes against nature, because of that filthy practice; there is a natural result to it. There is natural, physical consequences to homosexual behavior. That’s why God says don’t engage in it, you are going to harm your bodies in doing so.”
He has previously claimed that the Supreme Court’s decision striking down sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas— as well as its decisions on Roe v. Wade, which barred states from criminalizing abortion, and Engel v. Vitale, which blocks officially organized prayer in public schools — was one of three cases for which God will bring about the destruction of America.
Jeffress has also called gay people promiscuous, “abnormal,” and accused them of being so manipulative that they are using “brainwashing techniques” to “inject homosexuality” into American culture.
“There is a concerted effort to try to call ‘normal’ what God has called ‘abnormal,'” Jeffress said in a sermon obtained by Right Wing Watch. “It is a well thought-out process that has been wildly successful. … The first technique in brainwashing is to desensitize. The desensitization of the American public by showing that homosexuals are quote, ‘just like everyone else.’ … The second step is “jamming,” causing the public to feel guilty of their bigotry towards homosexuals.
“The third stage in the brainwashing technique is conversion, during which millions of people change their attitude about homosexuality through a planned, psychological attack, in the form of propaganda, fed to the nation, via the media. Have you noticed how the television airwaves are being flooded right now with programs that celebrate homosexuality. Homosexuality is being crammed down our throats, and being presented as a normal alternative lifestyle.”
Jeffress has also spread false statistics about the prevalence of HIV among gays, claiming up to 70 percent carry the virus, and has attempted to draw a nonexistent connection between homosexuality and pedophilia.
An official affiliated with the inauguration pushed back against claims that Jeffress is divisive, saying any attempt to “vilify” him is “deeply disappointing and misplaced,” reports CNN.
“The inauguration and people invited to pray at the inauguration speak to the values and the agenda of the incoming president,” Ross Murray, director of programs for GLAAD, said in a statement. “Jeffress’ anti-LGBTQ message is now going to be tied to this administration and its policies.”