Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday refused
to repudiate the anti-gay rhetoric of Rev. Robert Jeffress.
In endorsing Perry's bid for the White
House, Jeffress, senior pastor of the influential First Baptist
Church located in Dallas, created controversy by calling Mormonism a
“Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and don't
let anybody tell you otherwise,” the Dallas Morning News
quoted Jeffress saying during a September 30 sermon. “Even though
he talks about Jesus as his Lord and savior, he is not a Christian.
Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult.”
In endorsing Perry, he would add: “I
believe we should always support a Christian over a non-Christian.”
While his attacks on Romney's faith
were widely reported in the mainstream media, Jeffress also has a
long history of anti-gay rhetoric.
Wing Watch, a project of the People For the American Way (PFAW),
has documented these attacks.
Jeffress has said that gay men and
lesbians are incapable of enjoying long-term, monogamous
relationships, are abnormal and that gay troops should remained
barred from serving in the military because they spread disease.
“I do believe that there's a good
reason for keeping the tradition of not having homosexuals serve in
the military and I think there is a strong reason to do that. I mean
the fact is, you have Matt Foreman, the director of the [National]
Gay & Lesbian Task Force, saying in 2009 [that] AIDS is primarily
a gay disease with 70 percent of the gay population that way. It's a
fact that it's a gay disease,” Jeffress told blog
(Foreman has since said he meant to say
that gay men in the United States should take ownership of the
disease, in an effort to reduce infections. While gay men are
considered a high-risk group, AIDS is an equal opportunity disease.)
During an appearance on Good Morning
America, Perry passed on an opportunity to repudiate Jeffress'
“This is about freedom of speech, I
mean, freedom of religion. Our founding fathers were pretty wise in
creating those rights,” Perry said.
“I support the people's choice of
being able to pick and choose their faith.”
“I not gonna say that he [Jeffress]
can't say what he wants to say. The issue is, are we going to tell
people what they can say. And I'm not going to be one of those.
This is a country where we truly have freedom of expression and there
are going to be people who say things about me, there are probably
going to be people that say things about President Obama that are
offensive to him and his family. But those folks who say those
things are going to be the ones that you need to be asking the
questions to, not those us who are either associated with them, know
them, or for that matter, have endorsed President Obama,” Perry
added. (The video is embedded in the right panel of this page.)