Church sign controversy may have political fallout

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The provocative message on a sign outside the First Conservative Baptist Church on Old St. Augustine Road in Mandarin has come down, but some say the church's message of hate could taint the candidacy of a City Council candidate who is affiliated with the church.

The church's pastor, Gene Youngblood, sent a three-page explanation as to why he posted the message: "Homosexuals must repent or go to hell." Youngblood essentially said he was just conveying a message from God.

READ: Pastor Youngblood's statement

But hours after News4Jax reported about the sign, the message was removed.

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

Youngblood's son, Geoff Youngblood, is listed as an employee of the church. He is also running for City Council. Political signs for Youngblood are posed in the lawn in front of the church.

News4Jax wanted to know if the son shared his father's sentiments, but Geoff Youngblood's voice mailbox was full Monday, he did not reply to texts and we were told he was not in when we stopped by his business.

University of North Florida political science professor said the affiliation with a hateful message could affect Youngblood's campaign.

"Going into the last week, this is not what you want to be talking about," Corrigan said. "His reaction to this is what's going to be interesting. If he says, 'This is definitely what I believe,' then for the next week, his campaign is going to have to react to it."

Youngblood is running against Tommy Hazouri, a former mayor of Jacksonville who Corrigan said has a record of crossing party lines.

"What you're trying to do in the general election is reach out to the middle of the electorate: the moderate Republicans, the independents," Corrigan said. "If this sign got associated with him, then that might present some problems for him politically."

Hazouri told News4Jax he has no comment at this point.