Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress says an atheist organization's billboard advertisement featuring a picture of his face and a quote from one of his sermons is evidence that his church is on the right track.
"Any day we are being attacked by the American Atheist(s) … we consider it to be a good day," Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, told The Christian Post on Tuesday. "It only proves that we are doing our job."
The billboard is just one in a series promoting American Atheists' upcoming 50th anniversary celebration and convention, which will be held in Austin at the end of March. Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI are also featured on at least one of the signs in the series.
"What they (homosexuals) do is filthy," Jeffress is quoted as saying on the billboard. "Go godless instead," the bottom of the advertisement says.
Jeffress says the atheist organization accurately quoted him, but they failed to convey his entire message. The quote was taken from a sermon he preached five years ago, he says, in which he described homosexual behavior as "unnatural" based on the teachings of the Apostle Paul found in Romans 1.
"What homosexuals do is certainly filthy, but I never said homosexuals were filthy," said Jeffress.
He went on in his sermon to emphasize that everyone – homosexuals and heterosexuals – need a savior, and that their sins are all "filthy" in the eyes of God, he says.
Dave Muscato, director of public relations for the American Atheists, says some people might be surprised by some of the quotes on his organization's billboards.
"The purpose of showing the political figures and the pope and Robert Jeffress was basically just to show people what kinds of things these people are saying and just how bigoted their statements are," said Muscato.
He also says the American Atheists had plans to put up the Jeffress billboard even before Tim Tebow canceled an April speaking engagement at First Baptist.
The New York Jets quarterback and outspoken Christian announced via Twitter last month that "due to new information" he had decided not to speak to Jeffress' congregation. Prior to Tebow's decision, he was criticized by some for agreeing to speak at Jeffress' church because of the pastor's views on homosexuality and on other religions.
"Neither my church nor I hate anyone," Jeffress said Tuesday. "We are simply preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which says, it doesn't matter who you are or what you've done, by trusting in Christ you can have the forgiveness of sins that we all desperately need."