Tim Tebow, a New York Jets quarterback widely known for his devout Christianity, has canceled plans to appear at a Dallas megachurch whose pastor is unapologetic about his harshly anti-gay views, as well as hostility to Islam, Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
Tebow, who has often worn black eye strips inscribed with Biblical verse numbers during games, was scheduled to speak in April at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, whose pastor is Robert Jeffress.
In addition to labeling non-Protestant faiths as “cults,” Jeffress has said, “Homosexuality is perverse, it represents a degradation of a person’s mind and if a person will sink that low and there are no restraints from God’s law, then there is no telling to whatever sins he will commit as well.”
Both Islam and homosexuality, he has charged, lead to pedophilia.
Under pressure for days to bow out of the Dallas event, Tebow, taking to Twitter on February 21, stated that “due to new information that has been brought to my attention, I have decided to cancel my… upcoming appearance.”
The quarterback, widely expected to be let go by the Jets, said that he had been “looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ's unconditional love with the faithful members” of the Dallas congregation and would “continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope and Love to all those … needing a brighter day.”
In a statement released by the congregation, Jeffress claims Tebow told him he would like to appear at the mega-church at a later date.
“The reason for this firestorm is not because the word of God has changed,” the statement read. “It’s because society has changed.”
In a written statement, Hudson Taylor, who founded Athlete Ally to promote a welcoming attitude toward LGBT athletes in sports, said, “I applaud Tim Tebow's decision to cancel his appearance. Regardless of his reasoning, his absence serves as a reminder that the discrimination of gay and lesbian athletes and individuals has no place in sports or society. I hope Tim will take this opportunity to speak out for respect and acceptance of all people, regardless of a person’s sexual orientation.”