The greatest threat to freedom of religion is not ISIS but “the chamber of commerce,” First Baptist Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress says.
“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,’ ” Jeffress told conservative commentator Todd Starnes on the radio show Washington Watch with Tony Perkins.
Jeffress appeared on the show Monday. The pastor of the First Baptist megachurch is a controversial figure in Dallas but well-regarded among conservative groups nationwide. Earlier this year, he publicly supported Donald Trump’s comments that women who get abortions should be punished.
In his recent radio interview, Jeffress commended Texas leaders who have opposed a directive from the Obama administration telling school districts to let students use the restrooms that correspond with their gender identities.
The directive doesn’t have the force of law, but Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called it“blackmail.” Attorney General Ken Paxton accused the Obama administration of meddling in local affairs and suggested Texas might sue over the guidance.
“There’s a new motto, Todd,” Jeffress said on the radio show. “Don’t mess with Texas bathrooms.”
Fort Worth became a flashpoint in the national debate over transgender rights this month when the superintendent of its school district implemented a policy that lets transgender students use the restrooms of their choice.
Jeffress said on the show that gender is “something that is assigned by God.”
“The most loving thing we can do for those who suffer from gender confusion is to assure them their sex is not a mistake,” he said. “Their gender is a part of God’s plan for their lives. That’s the most loving response.”
But when businesses are confronted with loss of revenue, they give in, Jeffress told Starnes.
Another battle over bathroom use unfolded recently in Rockwall, a small and wealthy Dallas suburb that prides itself on its laissez-faire attitude.
A representative of the local Hilton hotel was among several people who spoke to the City Council in opposition to a proposed ordinance requiring people to use the restrooms that match the gender of their birth. The Hilton employee cited negative economic effects from a similar law in North Carolina.
The proposed ordinance, which was being pushed by the mayor, failed to go to a vote.