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Herman: Should highway be named for preacher who said gays go to hell?

An obscure bill at the legislative starting line could force lawmakers to put a late preacher’s life on a scale. Can a lifetime of good works be outweighed by virulently anti-gay comments from the pulpit?

Lobias Murray, born in 1927 to a poor farm family in East Texas, died in 2011 after he had been a community leader in Dallas for a half century as founder of the Full Gospel Holy Temple. The church began in 1961 and, at various times, had outreach ministries, radio broadcasts, a camp and a 12-grade school. Murray also established 35 branch churches around the country.

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“As a man of God, he preached an authentic, transforming and deliverance gospel,” the church website says in a biography of its late leader. “Like a balm in Gilead, his message was the antidote for broken lives and wounded spirits.”

“His ministry transcended ethnic barriers and reached people from all walks of life,” we’re told.

And, in the fiery way he preached, he told gays in no uncertain terms they’re on a path to perdition.

State Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, in the kind of bill that often passes with little attention, filed HB 768 to designate a portion of Interstate 20 in Dallas as “Apostle Lobias Murray Memorial Highway” with “a marker at each end of the highway and at appropriate intermediate sites along the highway.”

Perhaps the markers could include excerpts from Murray sermons, some still viewable on YouTube, though without dates of delivery. In one, he passionately tells how the devil seeks to give you heart trouble, high blood pressure and “a dose of syphilis, AIDS.”

“I come to tell you Jesus loves you. But he’s not going to put up with your mess. He’s not going to put up with your foolishness. Amen?” Murray preached.

And the church said amen.

“I’m thinking if there was a time to put a tag on sin it’s now. We’ve got too many preachers slapping at sin. All they say is sinners got to repent. But how are you going to know what sin is except you put a tag on it. You believe it, say amen.”

And the church said amen.

“I’m going to put a tag on it. I’m going to let you know that all adulterers are going to hell,” he continued. “You believe it, say amen.”

And the church said amen.

“These gays is going to hell,” he said. Though not asked to, congregants shouted their concurrence.

In another sermon posted on YouTube, Murray said, “Listen, the other day a man, praise God, was trying to take the New Testament and prove that it’s alright to be homosexual.”

The man, Murray said, noted “Christ didn’t say anything about it in the New Testament.”

“No, he didn’t,” Murray preached. “He didn’t say you could do it either, the low-down, filthy thing.” Murray then referred to a specific sexual act and said, “It’s filth, it’s low down.”

“You need deliverance,” he shrieked, “you dirty, you nasty stinking thing. Christ died that you could be set free.”

In another sermon Murray said, “God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. If you believe it, say amen, because he is against homosexuality.”

“We got to call sin sin. If you believe it, say amen. We got to preach against adulterers. We got to preach against these homosexuals,” Murray said.

And the church said amen.

Davis, though not a member of his church, knew and worked with Murray. She said he deserves the posthumous honor “because of his contributions to society.”

“I just think he’s worthy of it, quite frankly,” she told me.

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Davis is aware of Murray’s anti-gay sermons.

“I reconcile it with that was his thought. That was his teaching,” she said. “I think society has grown and changed. … I think that was probably the sentiment that everybody articulated back then. Certainly one of the things he did enjoy was the notion that everybody should enjoy a quality of life, be treated fairly and not discriminated against.”

She parts ways with Murray on his anti-gay sentiments.

“But I came up in a different era,” she said.

It’s a question of balance and on balance Murray was a good man who did much good, Davis said. “The good people do ought to be acknowledged. And while we may differ on some of the issues, you can’t ignore the good that they’ve done, and that’s what this is about.”

I asked Davis how she’d feel about honoring someone who made positive contributions but also harbored racist sentiments. For some reason, she mentioned the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, who, while not a racist, could be crude in a way that wouldn’t pass political correctness muster today.

Bullock, a longtime state official, died in 1999.

“Look at some of Bullock’s remarks,” Davis said. “They weren’t always the prettiest ones either. But we embraced his leadership and the contributions he made for society, which were numerous. You have to balance it.”

I asked Davis if she’ll have trouble passing the bill renaming the highway in Murray’s honor.

“I think I will now,” she said. “The fact that you’re raising this issue to me suggests somebody has figured out what’s the smallest thing that they could find to divide us instead of looking at the greatest thing to bring us together.”

FYI, nobody brought this bill to my attention. I found it while routinely scanning bill filings.

“Based on this conversation, I suspect I’m going to have some opposition,” Davis said.

This bill should get more than the routine little-to-no attention that bills like this routinely get.

If you believe it, say amen.

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