Friedman responsible for pastor address at US embassy opening, says State Dept
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
The US State Department said on Tuesday that the decision to invite the controversial evangelical pastor, Robert Jeffress to deliver a prayer at the American embassy opening in Jerusalem was made by US Ambassador David Friedman.
Robert Jeffress, a Texan baptist is a known vociferous supporter of US President Donald Trump and was a member of the evangelical advisory board during his 2016 presidential campaign.
The decision to select him as a speaker was met with criticism in the lead up to the May 15 inauguration ceremony as Jeffress has been linked to a number of controversial statements, one in particular that said all Jews will go to hell and suggesting that they cannot be “saved.”
In a bid to distance themselves from the decision, US State Department spokesman explicitly passed the baton of responsibility to Friedman.
“We certainly would not agree with his assertions,” Nauert said. “We would certainly not agree with the pastor’s remarks, some of his controversial remarks that he has made about various religious groups but he was chosen by Ambassador Friedman, who was certainly welcome to do so, and made the decision.”
Responding to her explanation, the department asked “is this the embassy of the United States of America or is it basically Ambassador Friedman’s embassy?” to which Nauert explained that embassies “have their free will sometimes to make decisions about who they want to bring in as guest lecturers or people to lead a ceremony or some sort of celebration.”
Former governor of Massachusetts and 2013 presidential candidate expressed his public disregard for Jeffres ahead of the embassy opening and called him a “religious bigot.”
“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 should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem” Romney tweeted, referring to a speech Jeffress gave in 2011.
Jeffress fired back at Romney, tweeting “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.”
The Jerusalem Open House on Monday also slammed Jeffress’s participation and called homosexuality a “perversion” and referred to those promoting gay rights as “pedophilia activists,” the Times of Israel reported.
A keen advocate for the Jerusalem embassy move, Jeffress tweeted in advance of the ceremony: “Jerusalem has been the object of the affection of both Jews and Christians down through history and the touchstone of prophecy, but most importantly, God gave Jerusalem — and the rest of the Holy Land — to the Jewish people. President Trump is a modern-day profile in courage, accomplishing what no other president has been willing to do.”
His choice was said to have been related to the significance of Jerusalem for Trump’s wide based of Christian conservative supporters.
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