Florida Church Draws Fire For Sign: 'Homosexuals Must Repent Or Go To Hell'

| by Nik Bonopartis
First Conservative Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida.First Conservative Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida.

A Florida church is giving Westboro Baptist Church a run for its money.

In May 2015, Gene Youngblood, pastor of the First Conservative Baptist Church in Jacksonville, became a lightning rod for criticism after he erected a sign that read, "Homosexuals must repent or go to hell."

The sign spawned dozens of news reports, social media outrage and online petitions asking Youngblood to remove the message. He refused, and in December, Youngblood doubled down with a holiday message for passersby.

"Homosexuality is a sin choice," the sign reads in block capital letters. "It does not trump my bill of rights."

Unlike his famous counterparts from Westboro Baptist Church, Youngblood does not grant on-camera interviews, telling Florida's WTSP that he "doesn't want to be taken out of context."

But the pastor did issue a three-page statement in early 2015, after newspapers and websites began reporting on the original sign. He says his signs are meant to save souls.

"It is my sincere prayer that perhaps 'ONE' practicing homosexual will have read our sign and will REPENT before it is too late and they are cast into HELL. HELL is a real place and anyone not believing in the reality of HELL will not change the temperature of the FLAMES a single degree," Youngblood wrote to Jacksonville's WJXT.

A petition asking the church to remove the sign had 896 signatures as of Feb. 10.

Hundreds of local people spoke about the sign during a community meeting in early December, WJXT reported. Some supported Youngblood, while others said the pastor's signs make it seem as though the neighborhood is tolerant of bigotry.

"We have people from all walks of life," said Marisol Riddell, who lives near the church. "I've seen gay and lesbian couples walk up and down the road here and I would hope that they all feel comfortable and included. It does make me sad that sign is out there."

Sources: WJXT, WTSP, / Photo credit: WTSP

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