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Southern Baptists Defend Church Smeared by NBC

By Todd Starnes

The pastor of one of the nation’s most prominent Southern Baptist churches is calling on NBC to retract a column that labeled the congregation as being “virulently anti-gay and anti-Semitic.”

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Rick Chandler, an NBC Sports “Off the Bench” writer, smeared the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas and urged Tim Tebow to cancel an upcoming appearance at the church.

“Tim Tebow to speak at virulently anti-gay, anti-Semitic Dallas megachurch,” read the headline on Chandler’s column.

“That’s the church led by pastor Robert Jeffress, a virulently anti-gay and anti-Semitic evangelical Christian,” he wrote. “It seems that lately Tim Tebow has been making more speaking appearances in church than he has quarterback appearances in NFL games.”

Jeffress said the accusations levied by Chandler were based on second and third-hand stories that were filled with inaccuracies.

“I would like NBC Sports to acknowledge that they made an error in their reporting and relied on secondary sources instead of doing their own reporting and fact-finding like any credible news organization ought to,” Jeffress told Fox News. “

Jeffress denied that his 11,000-member church is anti-gay or anti-Semitic.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he told Fox News. “We are a very pro-Israel church. To say that Jesus Christ is the only way for a person to be saved is not anti-Semitic.”

The New York Daily News also picked up on Tebow’s upcoming appearance at the church and also slammed the church.

“Tebow’s Hate Date: Tim to Talk at Gay Bash, Anti-Jew pastor’s church,” the headline screamed.

Sing Oldham, a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, said the NBC story was evidence that “it’s open season on those who profess personal faith in Jesus Christ and pattern their lives by biblical morality.”

“Evangelical Christians are treated with contempt and targeted for ridicule,” Oldham told Fox News. “This should come as no surprise. Jesus said, ‘The world will hate you because of My Name.'”

Jeffress said that kind of reporting is why Americans don’t trust journalists.

“This is another example of gross inaccuracies supported by the liberal press with no resemblance to truth whatsoever,” Jeffress said. “This is a part of not just a liberal agenda – but sloppy journalism.”

He said it’s clear the news organizations have no understanding of mainstream evangelical Christian beliefs.

“What I have said about homosexuality going against God’s standard for human sexuality – and about Christ being the only provision for salvation – these are not radical ideas,” he said. “These have been a part of historic Christian faith for 2,000 years.”

But Jeffress ultimately believes the media was really looking for another chance to bash Tebow.

“I think the long knives have been out for Tim for some time,” he said. “This is another way to try to attack him for his Christian beliefs. Most discerning people realize this was an ambush – not of us so much – but of Tim Tebow and the beliefs we hold dear.”

On Sunday the church released the following statement to Fox News:

[box] Recent media reports regarding an appearance by New York Jets’ Quarterback Tim Tebow at First Baptist Church of Dallas have grossly misrepresented past comments made by First Baptist’s pastor, Dr. Robert Jeffress, specifically related to issues of homosexuality and AIDS as well as Judaism.

While Dr. Jeffress did attend the Voter’s Values Summit in 2011, he did so in order to introduce then-presidential candidate, Governor Rick Perry. In an interview following the event, Dr. Jeffress responded to a question about homosexuals within the military during which he referred to a quote by Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, who at their 2008 national conference said, “70 percent of the people in this country living with HIV being gay or bi (sexual), we cannot deny that HIV is a gay disease.”

Dr. Jeffress mentioned this quote in his answer, which he clearly attributed to Foreman. Further, statements about Judaism allegedly attributed to Dr. Jeffress in recent media reporters are patently false.

Dr. Jeffress is committed to preaching the bold biblical truth of God’s Word. He has regularly stated the mainstream Evangelical Christian belief that Christ is the only way a person can escape Hell and that God’s provision of salvation is necessary for everyone, as found in John 14:6. Dr. Jeffress leads First Baptist under the mandates of Scripture and teaches its members to share God’s truth at all costs, even when it requires going against the mainstream, popular view.

We are saddened that this truth can no longer be communicated without being reported as “hate speech.”[/box]

Ken Shepherd, managing editor of Newsbusters, defended Pastor Jeffress, while noting Chandler is entitled to his personal opinion of both the minister and Tebow.

“Jeffress is certainly controversial and outspoken on religious and political matters, but to tag him anti-gay or anti-Semite is unfair and unhelpful to the interests of any rational discussion about the religious beliefs that Jeffress holds,” he wrote.

Nevertheless, Oldham said the hatred displayed by NBC should serve as an opportunity for Christians to be “counter-culture.”

“Rick’s obvious disdain for Tim Tebow and First Baptist Church of Dallas gives them, and all Christ-followers, an opportunity to respond with grace and truth,” he said.

Todd is the author of Dispatches From Bitter America — endorsed by Sarah Palin, Mark Levin and Sean Hannity. Click here to get your copy!