Robert Jeffress, a Texas megachurch pastor and one of the Trump administration's evangelical advisers, is facing criticism over billboards his church erected declaring America a “Christian nation.”
In fact, after a bit of online outrage, including an editorial from The Dallas Morning News, the billboard company contracting with the church, Outfront Media, decided to pull the signs down, describing the declaration — “America Is a Christian Nation” — as “anger provoking,” according to a statement from the church that was obtained by IJR.
Let me check with my rabbi. pic.twitter.com/6ODOXLB5Y2
— Robert Wilonsky (@RobertWilonsky) June 6, 2018
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, a Democrat, seemed to take issue with the billboards, too. In a statement to the newspaper, Rawlings said he doesn't mind people “being proud of the Christian tradition in America” but added it's important for the faith-based community to promote “a city of love versus a city of hate.”
And Metroplex Atheists, a branch of the national group American Atheists, is staging a protest at First Baptist Church to confront Jeffress' patriotic message.
— Metroplex Atheists (@MetAtheists) June 15, 2018
“The idea that America is a Christian nation is a myth and spreads an exclusionary false message that creates division in our country,” the event's description reads. “The United States is a free nation founded on a secular Constitution that includes freedom of religion.”
What were the billboards for?
The billboards were promoting an upcoming event called “Freedom Sunday,” which, according to Jeffress, will “celebrate our freedom as Americans and our freedom in Christ with patriotic worship” and a sermon about the United States' religious foundation.
Following Outfront Media's decision to take down the billboards, the Dallas-based megachurch offered to recast the verbiage on the signs into a question: “Is America a Christian Nation?” But the advertising company was not interested in keeping the signs up.
How is Jeffress responding?
Jeffress, who also serves as a commentator on Fox News, made clear in the church's statement that he supports the “right of businesses to refuse service to customers based on religious conviction” but noted that religious censorship should be concerning to people of all faiths.
“It should greatly concern people of any faith when those in the press or government proactively seek to defeat, censor, or silence any religious message with which they disagree,” he said. “I would not object to someone placing a billboard that said, 'America is NOT a Christian Nation' or 'America is a Muslim Nation.'”
The conservative pastor went on to claim many on the left are taking issue with his message because they know there's “historical evidence” supporting the controversial billboard's assertion that the U.S. is a “Christian nation.”
“Regardless, we will not be deterred as we defend the foundational values of our country,” Jeffress said, inviting residents “of all faiths” to attend the June 24 service and give his message a chance.