The U.S. delegation in Jerusalem on Monday to celebrate the opening of the new American embassy includes an evangelical Christian pastor who once said Jews “can’t be saved.”
The Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist megachurch in Dallas and a longtime supporter of President Donald Trump, told Fox News on Friday that he’s delivering an opening prayer of dedication at the ceremony.
“I’m going to be thanking God for the strong leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, who is absolutely determined to protect Israel,” Jeffress said. “And I’m also going to be thanking God for our President Donald Trump, who had the courage to do what no other U.S. president has done, and that is to officially recognize Jerusalem and to move the embassy.”
In addition to his remarks on Jews, Jeffress has referred to both Mormonism and Islam as “a heresy from the pit of Hell.” Islam, he also said, “promotes pedophilia.”
Mitt Romney, the subject of Jeffress’ barbs during his 2012 presidential run, criticized the inclusion of a man he called a “religious bigot” in the ceremony:
“Robert Jeffress says “you can’t be saved by being a Jew,“ and “Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.” He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.”
— @Mitt Romney (@MittRomney)
The Rev. John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel, will reportedly deliver the benediction at the ceremony. He came under fire in 2008, when audio resurfaced of him seeming to say Adolf Hitler was a “hunter” who was called upon to help Jews return to Israel.
Other members of the 250-person U.S. delegation include White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Ambassadors from only four European Union countries (Austria, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic) attended a welcome reception on Sunday, while representatives from other nations reportedly boycotted the event in protest.
Monday’s embassy move marks a controversial and momentous foreign policy shift for the U.S. Although past presidents contemplated moving the American embassy out of Tel Aviv, Trump was the first to act on it, declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel in December. The announcement was met with mass protests and worldwide condemnation, likely to be rekindled on Monday.
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