Minister, father of Jax City Council candidate, defends “homophobic” sign

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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.

The sign reads “Homosexuals must repent or go to Hell.” It has sparked a petition response at the website www.change.org, which calls the message “homophobic and bigoted” and calls for its removal.

“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.”

Melissa Ross

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at [email protected]



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