Scottish Council of Jewish Communites
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities

 
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities

SCoJeC protests to Church of Scotland
about support for hate-linked cleric

 
1 November 2012

SCoJeC has written to the Church of Scotland, formally protesting at the Church’s sponsorship of and participation in a conference to mark the 95th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, at which Rev Stephen Sizer is the “keynote” speaker.  The event is organised by the “Balfour Project” (which appears only to exist as a domain name registered to Sizer), and is promoting an apology by the UK Government for what the “historical injustice” of the Balfour Declaration.

Sizer, a Church of England Minister, has repeatedly associated himself with Holocaust denial, right wing extremism, and unabashed antisemitism – his website links to the antisemitic forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, antisemitic conspiracy theories, and Holocaust denial. As a consequence, he has been condemned publicly by the Council of Christians and Jews for "conduct unbecoming of a clergyman".  Just last week, the Board of Deputies of British Jews has taken the unprecedented step of submitting a formal disciplinary complaint about him to the Church of England.

An initial informal approach to the Church and Society Council, apprising them of our concerns, was dismissed as an “issue of perception”, so, after consultation with communal organisations, SCoJeC wrote formally to inform the Church that “we are unanimous that for the Church of Scotland to provide a platform for this speaker would be perceived as highly offensive throughout the Jewish community.”  We also made it unambiguously clear that our complaint was not about Sizer's views on Israel or the Middle East, but “his repeated flirtations with supersessionism, Holocaust denial, right-wing extremism, and unabashed antisemitism”.

We attached a dossier detailing many of these, and added “once can be a mistake; persistence can not … linking to another website is advertising its content. He is thus advertising the advertising of the Protocols, antisemitic conspiracy theories, and Holocaust denial.”

This letter received a lengthy but nonetheless dismissive reply from the Rev John Chalmers, the Principal Clerk, which failed to address any of the evidence we had provided, but largely consisted of a list provided by Sizer of his supporters, and concluding that the Church is “satisfied by [Sizer’s] own public position statements” that he is not antisemitic, but only critical of the State of Israel.

This is self-evidently not the case, and we therefore replied quoting the Board of Deputies’ comment that:

“The evidence indicates that he spends time trawling dark and extreme corners of the internet for material to add to his website ... introducing his readers to the racist and antisemitic websites from where he draws his material. ... Revd Sizer keeps some strange company. He has shared a platform with and quoted from Holocaust deniers, goes on trips to Iran as the guest of the NEDA Institute which contributes to global efforts to deny the Holocaust, and gave an interview with Qods News Agency, a Holocaust denying website.”

We have, however, expressed the hope that our efforts to promote good community relations and to enhance and strengthen the interfaith work in which we are all engaged will not suffer.

“Both our communities have endorsed the Scottish Government’s strenuous efforts to make religious hatred unacceptable in all its forms, but the dissemination of Sizer's message in Scotland must inevitably undermine this. … You say that you “hope we can overcome this difficult moment and seek to move forward in developing our good relationship”. We share that hope, but with some pessimism: please be in no doubt about the harm your willing association with this man and his activities will undoubtedly do.”

 

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