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Former Republican candidate for governor Jonathan Johnson, a business executive, withdrew his endorsement of Jason Christensen, an Independent American candidate for state Senate, on Thursday over comments in which Christensen labeled a gay man who committed suicide as a sinner.

Christensen's comments drew national media attention when he posted them on Facebook earlier this month in response to a post about the 19-year-old who committed suicide.

"Yes this is sad, and hopefully God will have mercy on both sins that this boy committed. The sins of homosexuality and the sins of murder," Christensen wrote.

"When you take a life what do you call it? It's still murder." Christensen said in a follow-up comment. "Read the scriptures, stop denying the scriptures. I do feel bad for him and his sins. But one must recognize what's sin and what is not sin. One must live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not the Gospel of the Devil."

The Davis County woman who posted the original comment blasted Christensen's insensitivity and demanded he not post on her page.

Christensen is running against incumbent Republican Sen. Curt Bramble in Provo's District 16 race and has run for various offices in the past.

Johnson, who is chairman of the board of, said he believes he had met Christensen when he endorsed him and had interacted with him some through social media, but didn't know about Christensen's comments about the man's suicide.

"Unfortunately, it's the first I've heard of it," Johnson said when he was contacted Thursday by The Tribune. "It sounds problematic."

Johnson said the main reason he endorsed Christensen in the race is because of his extensive history and dislike for Bramble.

"He's double-crossed me and Overstock in the past on legislation that had to do with stock-market manipulation, and he's a consistent sponsor of what I think is unconstitutional sales-tax legislation," Johnson said, referring to Bramble's efforts to impose state sales taxes on internet sales, an issue Overstock has bitterly fought.

"I have a long history with Curt Bramble and it's not a pretty one," Johnson said. "I just think Curt Bramble is not trustworthy."

After reading news articles about Christensen's comments, however, Johnson rescinded his endorsement.

"These comments make me uncomfortable and I ask that you remove my endorsement of your candidacy from social media and any other places you've published it," Johnson wrote.

During his GOP primary with Gov. Gary Herbert this year, Herbert's campaign questioned if Johnson was too gay-friendly, since Overstock gave benefits to same-sex partners and because the company was a prominent sponsor of Utah's Gay Pride parade, with couples being married on the float.

Johnson said he was bothered that his company was so outspoken on the issue. He said that he believed marriage is best between a man and woman, but it was "a settled issue today" by the courts.

"I'm not going to try to pick that scab, unsettle the issue," said Johnson, but he did want religious protections for churches that do not want to have to perform same-sex marriages.

Twitter: @RobertGehrke