New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees defended his Bring Your Bible to School Day video but also found time to play offense, accusing some critics of trying to generate hits on social media by spreading “completely untrue” rumors.
“Being a Christian is love, it’s forgiveness, it’s respecting all, it’s accepting all,” Mr. Brees told reporters Thursday in his weekly press scrum. “What’s a shame is people will make headlines just to get hits, just to get views, and all of a sudden these rumors spread that are completely untrue.”
The future Hall of Famer has come under fire for appearing in a video for the annual pro-Bible event promoted by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, which critics have denounced as anti-gay for its opposition to same-sex marriage and support for conversion therapy.
Mr. Brees distanced himself from “any group” engaged in anti-gay messaging without mentioning Focus on the Family, based in Colorado Springs.
“I was not aware of any of the things they said about them lobbying for anti-gay, any type of messaging or inequality or any type of hate-type related stuff. I was not aware of that at all,” he said. “Again, the video itself was just focused on national Bring Your Bible to School Day. It was not promoting any group.”
He also released a video statement Thursday defending his decision to film the promo, saying he only sought to encourage kids to bring their Bibles to school.
“It was as simple as that, so I’m not sure why the negativity spread or why people had to rope me into certain negativity,” Mr. Brees said in his video. “I do not support any groups that discriminate or that have their own agendas that are trying to promote inequality. So hopefully that has set the record straight and we can all move on, because that’s not what I stand for.”
Atheist groups, LGBTQ advocates and media outlets condemned Mr. Brees both for partnering with Focus and encouraging students to “train children to proselytize in public spaces,” as Out Magazine put it.
“Bring Your Bible to School Day is itself a theocratic event meant to encourage public school students who are part of the Christian majority to target minority religious and nonreligious students for conversion,” said the Freedom From Religion Foundation in a Friday statement.
Focus on the Family President Jim Daly said it was “unfortunate that mean-spirited antagonists have attempted to draw attention away from this event by mischaracterizing the beliefs and positions of our organization.”
“We must treat everyone with love and respect,” Mr. Daly said in a statement. “In 21st century post-Christian America, the best and only way forward is to not poke ideological opponents in the eye but find ways to acknowledge and respect our differences.”
If there’s any silver lining, Mr. Brees said, it’s that the uproar has drawn attention to the annual Bring Your Bible to School Day.
“Actually, we’re sitting here talking about national Bring Your Bible to School Day. So that’s a good thing,” he said. “It’s Oct. 3, for anybody who wants to know.”
He called it “ironic that that type of hate is brought on me, someone that has nothing but support for all people.”
“And isn’t that the message we’re trying to send, is not trying to engage in that type of behavior? Right? So it’s a shame,” Mr. Brees said.
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