On the eve of signing a controversial “ religious freedom” executive order, President Donald Trump spent time with a right wing pastor who has vehemently opposed LGBTQ rights.
Trump’s social media director Dan Scavino Jr. tweeted a photo of the president posing happily with Pastor Robert Jeffress in the Oval Office on Tuesday. Jeffress, who is a senior pastor at Texas’s First Baptist Dallas church, made headlines in 2012 for comparing gay people to pedophiles, and was criticized by former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on the campaign trial for being extreme.
Also on Tuesday, Jeffress shared a snapshot of himself beside former President Ronald Reagan’s official White House portrait...
...and followed it up Thursday with another shot of him with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
The pastor’s rigidly conservative views, particularly those that pertain to LGBTQ rights, have repeatedly been the source of controversy. “There are a disproportionate amount of assaults against children by homosexuals than by heterosexuals ― you can’t deny that,” he said in a 2012 installment of his “Pathway To Victory” radio program, according to the Dallas Observer. “The reason is very clear: 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.”
He also urged his congregants to visit Chick-fil-A after the president and CEO of the fast food chain spoke out against same-sex marriage in 2012. “This is not about bashing gays,” he said at the time. “This is about Americans and Christians standing up and saying, ‘Enough is enough.’”
News of Trump’s meeting with Jeffress came as some LGBTQ rights advocates were expressing relief that the president’s “religious freedom” executive order didn’t target the queer community in any specific way, despite earlier reports. Ultimately, the meeting is yet another reminder that LGBTQ voters have plenty of reason to doubt Trump’s vow to be a “president for all Americans.” The president’s choice to be the next Army secretary is Tennessee state Sen. Mark Green (R), who has said that opposing transgender equality efforts is key to his plan to “crush evil.”
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