Florida church sign causes stir

Sign says homosexuals must repent or go to hell

By Heather Leigh - Reporter, Jason Mealey - Producer/assignment editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A sign in front of a Mandarin church is getting a lot of attention. People stopping by are snapping pictures of it. Others are saying they're not surprised by the message because of the person who put it up.

It's on the marquee of First Conservative Baptist Church off Old St. Augustine Road. The pastor, Gene Youngblood, said he's just exercising his right to free speech.

The sign reads, "Homosexuals must repent or go to hell."

Some are appalled. Others say they are so used to seeing controversial messages up on the marquee that they have given up responding because they don't want to give the pastor the satisfaction.

Either way, the pastor said he has the right to say what's on this sign and hopes he can make a difference sharing what he says is the word of God.

Don't shoot the messenger. In a nutshell, that's what Youngblood wants everyone who doesn't like the sign to know.

"I think it's very sad that people that claim to be Christians are hate-mongers. And why can't people mind their own business and let people live their life the way they want to live it? They're not hurting anyone," an unidentified resident said.

Although Youngblood wouldn't talk on camera, he did write a three-page response to an interview request.

[READ: Youngblood issues statement]

"Because we love people (yet, as directed in scripture to hate the sin), we therefore want to warn them of the coming judgment of God on the sin of homosexuality (and any other sin that is NOT repented of)," the statement reads.

"I think it's very unfortunate. We're told as Christians not to be judgmental, and I'd hate for somebody to decide my fate as they have decided certain people's fate in their statement. To me it's very unloving and very unchristian," Jane Roper said

Youngblood goes on to say he has a great love and concern for the city.

"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," it reads.

"It's shameful for the whole city to have something like that out there," another unidentified resident said.

"I think they're extremely misled and misinformed," Roper said.

Youngblood said he changes the messages on this board frequently and that this one is no different than some of his other messages.

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