(CNN) Three and a half decades after calling for homosexuals to be stoned, former Bob Jones University President Bob Jones III has apologized. ”I take personal ownership of this inflammatory rhetoric,” Jones said. ”This reckless statement was made in the heat of a political controversy 35 years ago.
” The weekend apology came days after the conservative Christian school in South Carolina received a petition asking for an apology for a statement Jones made to the Associated Press in 1980 at the White House. ”I’m sure this will be greatly misquoted,” Jones said at the time. ”But it would not be a bad idea to bring the swift justice today that was brought in Israel’s day against murder and rape and homosexuality.
I guarantee it would solve the problem if homosexuals were stoned, if murderers were immediately killed as the Bible commands.” When he made the comments, Jones was part of a group of fundamentalist ministers who went to the White House with 70, 000 signatures on a petition opposed to extending provisions of the Civil Rights Act to homosexuals. ”Upon now reading these words, they seem to me as words belonging to a total stranger were my name not attached,” Jones said in Saturday’s statement.
”I cannot erase them, but wish I could, because they do not represent the belief of my heart or the content of my preaching.” Bob Jones University has long been a center of controversy for its fundamentalist stances. In 1975, the school adopted rules banning interracial dating.
BJU received national attention on the issue in 2000 when George W. Bush, then a presidential candidate, visited the campus. The uproar over the ban prompted the school to drop it.
The petition by BJUnity, a group that bills itself as a network ”for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and straight affirming people affected by fundamentalist Christianity,” garnered more than 1, 900 signatures. ”We are grateful that Bob Jones III has taken responsibility for these words words that have caused deep harm for many more people than any of us knows,” the group’s website said. ”This means a lot to us because it represents the beginning of a change in the rhetoric and conversation.