- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2019

He has yet to throw a pass in the 2019 NFL regular season, but New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is already feeling the heat for starring in a Focus on the Family video promoting Bring Your Bible to School Day.

The future Hall of Famer discussed his faith and urged students to “live out your faith” in the brief promo released Aug. 29 on the conservative Christian group’s Facebook page.

“One of my favorite verses in the Bible is 2 Corinthians 5:7, where we live by faith, not by sight,” Mr. Brees said in the video. “So I want to encourage you to live out your faith on Bring your Bible to School Day and share your love with friends. You’re not alone.”

While Mr. Brees is well-known for his Christian faith, critics faulted him for partnering with an “anti-gay group” as Newsweek put it, pointing to Focus on the Family’s opposition to same-sex marriage and support for gay conversion therapy.

“It’s disappointing he’s lending his face to a video targeted at schools on behalf of an bigoted organization that presents a threat to the lives of kids who weren’t born to fit into their little Christian box,” tweeted Louisiana Atheists.

American Atheists blasted Mr. Brees for appearing in “a Christian hate group’s promotional videos,” while the progressive Big Easy Magazine launched the hashtag #SaintsDontHate.

Others rushed to the quarterback’s defense.

“It’s ridiculous that the Left turns an encouragement to share God’s love into hate-mongering,” said Rep. Jim Banks, Indiana Republican, in a statement. “Neither Drew Brees nor Focus on the Family have mentioned LGBT people—they’ve only promoted Bring Your Bible to School Day.”

Focus on the Family president Jim Daly said the organization had “great respect” for Mr. Brees and praised him for “encouraging young people to show God’s love by participating in this year’s celebration.”

As for the criticism, “America’s pluralism demands tolerance and civility towards those who may hold to a different point of view.”

“As such, it’s our hope that those who may object to us expressing our deeply held religious beliefs may nevertheless afford us the same respect they rightly expect in return,” Mr. Daly said.

Also taking on the critics was New England Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson, who blasted BlackSportsOnline’s Robert Littal for his tweet skewering Focus on the Family as an “Anti-Gay Religious Cult.”

“This is so weak. Stop lying,” tweeted Mr. Watson, adding, “Have done plenty of work with @FocusFamily and will continue to. No problem speaking up for my friends when they are being slandered.”

Speaking from within the Saints headquarters and practice facility in Metairie, Mr. Brees released a videotaped statement in which he denied knowledge of any group’s ideology and rejected any such labels on himself.

“There’s been a lot of negativity spread about me in the LGBQT community recently,” Mr. Brees said, attributing the “confusion” to a slanted headline he said reflected neither his intent nor belief.

Saying he wanted “to set the record straight,” Mr. Brees then said he is guided by two Christian codes, one of which is “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

“What does that mean to me?” he said. “That means love all, respect all and accept all. And that’s how I live my life.”

What he took to be a straightforward attempt to encourage Christians to “live your life with confidence,” has instead been wildly misconstrued, Mr. Brees said.

“I’m not sure why the negativity spread or why people had to rope me into certain negativity,” he said. “I do not support any groups that discriminate or that have their own agendas that are trying to promote inequality, OK? So hopefully that has set the record straight and we can all move on, because that’s not what I stand for.”

This year’s Bring Your Bible to School Day is scheduled for Oct. 3.

The Advocate, an LGBTQ publication, noted that Mr. Brees has “signaled his support for LGBTQ youth,” partnering with talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres on an anti-bullying campaign, adding “we have a few questions.”

Also appearing in a Bring Your Bible to School Day promo is Christian singer Francesca Battistelli.

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