News of NBA basketball player Jason Collins' coming out this week was greeted by support from many Americans, among them President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant. However, some conservative Christians, including televangelist Pat Robertson, were less enthusiastic.
On Tuesday, Robertson used a portion of his daily "700 Club" television program to defend the comments of ESPN reporter Chris Broussard, who said Monday that Collins is living in "open rebellion to God" and should not be considered a Christian.
While Broussard was roundly criticized for those comments, Robertson categorically defended him. Calling Broussard a "brave" man, Robertson said it was unfair for the sports commentator to be "pilloried in the press."
"Somehow we’ve said if it’s heterosexual fornication, it’s bad," Robertson said. "If it’s homosexual fornication -- that used to be called an abomination in the Bible -- now it’s a protected civil right. And so somebody that says that that kind of conduct is sinful is now being pilloried in the press. He’s telling the truth! This is what the Bible says!"
"Now, if you don't want to be a Christian, that's your business," Robertson continued, adding, "But don’t tell somebody he can’t speak specifically about what the Christian faith says about certain conduct. There isn’t anything bigoted about that."
Broussard, for his part, has so far declined to apologize for his comments, while maintaining that he has no objections to Collins playing in the NBA.
Robertson's comments come on the heels of a smattering of other objections voiced by members of the evangelical community.
Bryan Fischer, a controversial radio host and virulently anti-gay spokesperson for the American Family Association, said Collin's decision to come out would hurt his career and cause sexual tension in the locker room.
Matt Barber, a conservative pundit and associate dean at Liberty University's law school, posted an astonishingly insensitive tweet comparing Collins' announcement to a hypothetical announcement celebrating incest.
When will the first brave athlete "come out" & acknowledge that he & his mother hook up? We need role models for incestuous kids! Courage!
— Matt Barber (@jmattbarber) April 29, 2013