A conservative evangelical preacher with a history of making inflammatory statements about gays and Muslims is expected to preach at the traditional pre-inaugural morning service Friday at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Rev. Luis León, rector of St. John’s Episcopal, told CNN about the plan to have Rev. Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist and a fervent supporter of President-elect Donald Trump, deliver a sermon in the private service. Another unnamed source involved in the service told the network that Jeffress was scheduled to take part in it.
Jeffress has built a reputation for attacking other religions over the years, especially in his capacity as a commentator on Fox News.
In 2010, Jeffress said Islam promoted pedophilia, violence and the oppression of women, claims he has often repeated. The worst thing about Islam, he said at the time, “is that it is a deception that leads people from the true God.”
He has also called Mormonism a “cult“, including during the 2012 presidential campaign. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), a Mormon, was the Republican Party’s nominee for president that year.
In anticipation of the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling that legalized gay marriage nationwide, Jeffress compared gay relationships to incest. Later that summer, he claimed that Christians in America “are being marginalized the way Jews in Germany were.”
Jeffress said in July of last year that he would have preferred Trump to “a candidate who embodies the teaching of Jesus.”
“I would run from that candidate as far as possible, because the Sermon on the Mount was not given as a governing principle for this nation,” he said, as quoted by RawStory.
The pre-inaugural service has been attended by every incoming president since Franklin Roosevelt, with the exception of Richard Nixon. Though Trump’s transition team would not confirm or deny to CNN that Jeffress would preach on Friday, one unnamed transition official defended Jeffress to the network.
“Pastor Jeffress is a unifying figure representing a diverse spectrum of Americans,” the person said. “Any attempt to vilify this religious leader is deeply disappointing and misplaced.”