An American football player for the New York Jets best known for during-game prayers, has been invited to speak at a church in Dallas, the leader of which has been criticised for denouncing homosexuality in the past.

Tim Tebow, a New York Jets quarterback, who in the past has used under eye paint to display references to bible verses, has been invited to speak at the Dallas Baptist megachurch.

Tebow is well known for taking time during American football games to get down on one knee and pray.

The evangelical leader of the church, Reverend Robert Jeffress, has been known to denounce homosexuality, and has also spoken out against Islam, Judaism and Mormonism.

In July, he said: “There are a disproportionate amount of assaults against children by homosexuals than by heterosexuals, you can’t deny that,” reports CBS.

“And the reason is very clear: Homosexuality is perverse, it represents a degradation of a person’s mind and if a person will sink that low and there are no restraints from God’s law, then there is no telling to whatever sins he will commit as well.”

Some have argued that Tebow’s public persona will be damaged by speaking at the church, due to past controversies.

He has, however, spoken in the past, against abortion. Three years ago he featured with his mother in an anti-abortion advert which was aired during the Super Bowl.

At the time he said: “I know some people won’t agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe… I’ve always been very convicted of [my views on abortion] because that’s the reason I’m here, because my mom was a very courageous woman. So any way that I could help, I would do it.”

Some have speculated that, when he speaks at the church, he may mirror what Jeffress has said in the past. Others have said he may not mention it at all.

The church has 11,000 members, and is housed in a new $130 million campus.

In the announcement that Tebow will speak, the church states: “NFL Quarterback and Philanthropist Tim Tebow lives a life that consistently reflects his values, and he is dedicated to helping people and communities in need. … [He] will join us as we conclude our month of grand opening events!”

Actor, Neil Patrick Harris, faced accusations of “mocking Christianity” and pushing a “gay agenda” for his appearance in an advert for the Super Bowl in which he had writing in the eyeblack on his face. Some said he was mocking Tim Tebow, other said he was simply parodying Beyonce, who made a similar ad. 

At the weekend, a baseball player in the US apologised  again for a “mistake” he made when writing a homophobic slur on his face during a game, and has said that he wants to put the past behind him.

Yunel Escobar, 30, then of the Toronto Blue Jays, wore eyeblack, a grease worn by players to reduce sun-glare, emblazoned with the words “tu ere” and “maricon”, which translates loosely into English as “You are a faggot”.

Also last week, the decision of 25-year-old former Leeds United football player Robbie Rogers, to come out last week, was commended by gay rights activists, who described this as a “tipping point” for sports.