Mitt Romney calls pastor picked to lead prayer at US embassy dedication a religious bigot


(JTA) — Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney criticized the choice of Robert Jeffress, a Dallas pastor, to lead a prayer at the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

Romney, who currently is running for the Senate in Utah, said in a tweet Sunday evening that “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 responded in a tweet: “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.”

Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, a Southern Baptist megachurch, is a Fox News contributor, an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, and host of radio and television shows broadcast throughout the United States.  He preached at a private service for Trump and his family prior to his inauguration in January 2017.

Jeffress endorsed Romney, who is Mormon, for president in 2012, The Hill reported.

Jefress told Fox News Radio on Friday that he would be delivering the opening prayer at the dedication.

He told host Todd Starnes: “In that prayer, I’m going to be recounting God’s history of faithfulness to His people, the Israelites. I’m going to be thanking God for the strong leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, who is absolutely determined to protect Israel. 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. This is another example of promise made, promise kept.”

Pastor John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, will deliver the benediction at the ceremony, according to CNN.  In an interview on Friday with the Breitbart news website, Hagee said he told President Donald Trump he would win “political immortality” for moving the embassy from Tel Aviv.

“I told him that the moment that you do that, I believe that you will step into political immortality,” the conservative news website quoted Hagee as saying.

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