A prominent member of Donald Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board once said a lesbian teenager who had “seriously contemplated suicide” over her sexuality should undergo conversion therapy.
Robert Jeffress, a Dallas pastor and Fox News contributor, has been described as one of Trump’s closest evangelical advisers and is part of the “Evangelicals for Trump” coalition — created to mobilize evangelical voters in the 2020 election.
Jeffress is also a vocal opponent of LGBTQ rights, having previously called gay people “filthy” and linked homosexuality with bestiality.
He also said that LGBTQ people have a “miserable lifestyle,” called homosexuality “perverse,” said same-sex marriage was “a sign of the coming apocalypse,” and described transgender people as “a rebellion against God’s plan.”
And now, Media Matters has uncovered Jeffress’ advocacy for conversion therapy, the widely debunked practice of trying to forcibly change a person’s sexuality or gender identity. Such methods typically involve talk therapy, or more extreme forms such as electroshock and aversion therapy.
In 2014, Jeffress told a CBS affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth that he has “talked to people who have undergone therapy like this and they have said as Christians it has helped them manage their temptations.”
“No therapy can remove those desires that we all have in different area’s of life, but as a Christian we have the power to overcome those desires and I think that’s the true reparative therapy that only comes to those who know Jesus Christ his savor,” he said.
He also previously said that a “heterosexual shift is a possibility for all homosexuals who are strongly motivated to change.”
And in his 2004 book Hell? Yes!, in a chapter titled “Homosexuality is a Perversion,” Jeffress tells the story of a lesbian teenager who had considered suicide prior to coming out.
The high school senior said she was much happier now that she had accepted her sexuality. Jeffress’ response? She should undergo conversion therapy.
According to Jeffress, he asked the girl, who he identifies as Susan, how “God feels about your homosexual activity?”
“I understand now that God created me with these desires, desires that I have had since I was a little girl,” she apparently responded. “For years I have been miserable trying to deny those feelings and have seriously contemplated suicide. But now that I have accepted who I am, I am happier than I have ever been in my life!”
Media Matters reports that rather than celebrate a child overcoming suicidal ideation and being happy, Jeffress instead “segues into writing numerous pages about why homosexuality is purportedly wrong.”
He writes that “homosexual relationships are neither ‘normal’ nor ‘healthy’” and says “homosexual apologists” seek to “‘normalize’ homosexuality” in an attempt to “cover over the darkest secret associated with this perversion: child molestation.”
Jeffress then claims that “through the power of Jesus Christ, all of us can be freed from acting on [homosexual desires].”
“None of us gets a ‘pass’ from God for rebellious behavior just because it arises from our innate desires, regardless of the cause of those desires,” he wrote. “But here is the good news: Through the power of Jesus Christ, all of us can be freed from acting on those desires.”
And what of Susan?
“I wish I could report that after hearing the above information, she renounced her homosexual tendencies, confessed her sin to God, and left my office with a newfound attraction to the opposite sex,” he wrote. “She didn’t.”
Last week, another Trump campaign adviser was found to have advocated for conversion therapy.
Jenna Ellis, a former cable news pundit who now serves as senior legal adviser to the campaign, has argued against bans on the harmful practice and linked to false material claiming conversion therapy is safe.
It was one of a number of social media posts showing contempt for LGBTQ people, including saying that higher rates of HIV among gay and bisexual men was “God’s moral law.”
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