Pressure mounts for Dallas to cut ties with pastor after controversial comments

Pressure is mounting for Dallas' mayor and police chief to cut ties with the controversial head pastor of First Baptist Dallas.

On Friday, Mayor Mike Rawlings finally weighed in on pastor Robert Jeffress' comment about gay-friendly businesses who are against so-called "religious freedom laws" and had compared them to ISIS.

“The statements that were made hurt me deeply for Dallas,” said Mayor Rawlings. “That’s now how Dallas is.”

"I've said often the greatest threat to freedom of religion in America is not ISIS, it's the chamber of commerce,” Jeffress said in a May 16 interview with a radio station. "I mean, it's the businesses that say to our representatives, 'Oh, don't pass laws like that, Don't pass these religious freedom laws because people will interpret that as anti-gay and we'll lose business.’”

The mayor, along with Dallas' police chief, appeared with Jeffress to announce a Back the Blue partnership in April.

While the mayor now says Jeffress' words hurt, he didn't go as far as cutting ties with the pastor who's also criticized Islam, Mormonism and same sex marriage.

“This is a tricky thing,” said Mayor Rawlings. “There are a lot of restaurants that will give free hamburgers to our police officers and you know sometimes those restaurants might do things that are weird.  And so, I think the chief will lead and resolve that for the police officers.”

Cece Cox of the Dallas Resource Center says the actions betray a community already dealing with a string of unsolved attacks in and around Oak Lawn.

“I think the mayor is not leading in this situation. He's not making any decisions and he's punting to Chief Brown,” said Cox. “You have that in combination with the DPD saying, “Oh, we're going to send our officers to First Baptist Church where the pastor is saying anti-LGBT things.’ We've just had enough.”

First Baptist Dallas says Jeffress was out of town Friday. The executive pastor of operations spoke on his behalf.

“There are no formal relationships or ties at issue here,” said Ben Lovvorn. “Instead, First Baptist Dallas has just offered to support the Dallas Police Department. We haven't asked the police department or city to support us.”

Still, new voices are joining the chorus this week for the city to cut ties with the church.

“I do think it's incumbent upon him to speak because remaining silent does make it look like, at least tacitly, it's endorsed by the Dallas Police Department,” Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats President Cannon Brown.

First Baptist maintains Jeffress' statement was misconstrued and said the mayor is reacting to that. The church says it has not been in direct communication with the mayor or police department over this call to end their partnership.

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