WASHINGTON — The White House said today that President Trump doesn’t share the same negative sentiments about Jews expressed in the past by one of the evangelical pastors chosen to deliver the invocation at today’s opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
John Hagee of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, who is the chairman of Christians United for Israel, and Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church in Dallas were selected for the honor.
Jeffress has said that Jews “can’t be saved,” that Catholicism is “satanic,” that Mormonism is a “cult” and that Islam is “evil.” He serves on President Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board.
“God sends good people to Hell. Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism — not only do they lead people away from from God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell,” he said in 2010.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney blasted the choice of Jeffress on Twitter: “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.”
Jeffress replied, “Historic Christianity has taught for 2,000 years that salvation is through faith in Christ alone. The fact that I, along with tens of millions of evangelical Christians around the world, continue to espouse that belief, is neither bigoted nor newsworthy.”
“God says in Jeremiah 16: ‘Behold, I will bring them the Jewish people again unto their land that I gave to their fathers. … Behold, I will send for many fishers, and after will I send for many hunters,'” Hagee said in a sermon in the 1990s. “‘And they the hunters shall hunt them.’ That would be the Jews. … Then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone who comes with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter.” After those remarks surfaced during the 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) rejected Hagee’s endorsement. Hagee fired back that people were “grossly misrepresenting” his words.
At today’s White House press briefing, deputy press secretary Raj Shah said he “honestly” didn’t “know how that came to be” that Jeffress was selected to deliver an invocation at the embassy opening, but added that the pastor has “a strong relationship with many people in the faith community, as well as folks in the administration and Republicans on the Hill and others.”
“I believe Democrats as well. So I think that he has a longstanding involvement with public officials. You know, beyond that I don’t really have a whole lot to add,” Shah said.
“Do you think it’s appropriate for a person who thinks that — who said that Jews are going to hell to speak at the opening of our embassy in Israel?” a reporter asked.
“I haven’t seen those remarks, but obviously those aren’t remarks that the president agrees with,” Shah replied.