Church's apathy on antisemitism

By Nick Howard, January 16, 2012

In the past fortnight the police and the FA have convinced many that they are facing up to racism with the seriousness it deserves. Yet at the same time the Church of England has given the opposite impression.

In October Reverend Stephen Sizer posted a link on his Facebook page to an antisemitic site called "The Ugly Truth" which featured images of blood-sucking Jewish vampires and Nazi-style caricatures of Jewish men. Three months later, Rev Sizer took down the link.

The Diocese of Guildford claimed, on behalf of Bishop Christopher Hill - Rev Sizer's local bishop - that the reverend withdrew the link "when the nature of other articles on that site was drawn to his attention". The particular article that he'd recommended hadn't itself been antisemitic, so a potentially damaging "racist vicar" story became one of a "naïve vicar". But the bishop's statement was untrue.

I emailed Bishop Hill on November 16, expressing my concern, and pointing out that in 2010 a bishop was suspended for inappropriate use of Facebook (posting unpleasant remarks about the royal wedding). Bishop Hill replied that week, promising to speak to Rev Sizer "about his use of Facebook". But six weeks passed before the link was removed. It was only taken down then because the JC was looking into the story.

The Church comes out looking blithely unconcerned about racism. Perhaps Bishop Hill forgot to inform Rev Sizer that his Facebook page was a portal to a Jew-hating website, showing how little he cares about antisemitism. Perhaps he did inform Rev Sizer, but was ignored, in which case the reverend would be confirmed as an antisemite and the bishop would again show himself to be apathetic about racism.

Sizer has a track record of such behaviour

Rev Sizer has a long track record of arguably antisemitic behaviour, so the Church could hardly have been encouraged to give him the benefit of the doubt. He's described IDF members as "Herod's soldiers operating in Bethlehem today" (King Herod ordered his troops to kill all the baby boys in and around Bethlehem, in the hope of murdering Christ). He's promoted boycotts of McDonalds, Coca-Cola, L'Oréal and Nestlé on the basis that they "channel their profits to the Zionist agenda". He has alleged Israeli complicity in 9/11, and argued that Israel's actions towards the Palestinians mean "the Holocaust has been perpetuated over the past 40 or 50 years". His associates include Palestinian activist Raed Salah; Zahra Mostafavi, the Ayatollah Khomeini's daughter; and Israel Shamir, who warns of "Jewish mind control on a world scale".

The MacPherson report into Stephen Lawrence's death defined institutional racism as "the collective failure of an organisation" regarding "colour, culture, or ethnic origin". The Diocese of Guildford has fallen foul of that.

It's worth noting the Church's utterly unethical handling of the media. To stifle a negative story, the Diocese of Guildford issued a deliberately misleading statement. Even if the bishop forgot to speak to Rev Sizer in November, he was certainly informed about the matter on December 27, when an article about it was posted on the blog "Harry's Place". Yet Sizer only removed the link a week later, under duress. Not only does this episode raise the question of why the Church wants to protect a man like Rev Sizer, it raises the issue of how the Diocese of Guildford can justify intentionally misleading the media.

One would hope that the Church would set a moral example to organisations like the Met and the FA. Sadly, it seems it's the other way round.

Nick Howard works as a writer and public speaker. He is an ordained Anglican

Last updated: 1:45pm, January 17 2012