The Rev. Gene Youngblood, father of Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 candidate Geoff Youngblood, says a message posted on the marquee outside his First Conservative Baptist Church is “reacting to current events” and corresponds to Scripture.
“In John 13:34, God said: ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’ NOWHERE in the Bible does it mention gays and hell in the same sentence. There is no place in Jacksonville for such an ignorant and hatred-filled sign- REMOVE IT IMMEDIATELY!!!” reads the petition, which was started by Cate Dobbins, a resident who lives a couple of miles from the church.
Dobbins was reportedly stopped from delivering her petition to the church on Sunday by church members.
Youngblood tells FloridaPolitics.com that the message on his church’s marquee is changed weekly. He adds, “We message based around what is happening in the news, and the message is in accordance with Biblical scriptures.”
Youngblood’s son, business owner Geoff Youngblood, is in a runoff race against former Jacksonville mayor and Duval County School Board member Tommy Hazouri for the City Council’s At-Large Group 3 seat. Youngblood, a Republican, and Hazouri, a Democrat, have clashed repeatedly on the campaign trail at various forums. One issue where the two diverge is on whether Jacksonville should expand its human rights ordinance to cover LGBT citizens. Hazouri is a strong supporter of an expanded HRO; Youngblood is not.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville lawyer Jimmy Midyette, chair of the Northeast Florida LGBT PAC, had this to say about the church marquee.
“The Constitutions of Florida and the United States guarantee both religious freedom and freedom of speech. This fundamentalist church has every right to discern and express its beliefs in any lawful manner, including through its sign. Our diversity is one of Jacksonville’s many strengths. As we develop into a 21st century city, what we need now is constructive dialogue that helps us to build bridges between us, not hurtful words that foster division and mistrust.”