Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Baptist Leader Claims God ‘does Not Hear the Prayer of a Jew’

September 19, 1980
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A Baptist leader’s claim that “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew” has drawn sharp criticism from Jewish and some Baptist groups and a denial by Dr. Bailey Smith, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who mode the statement, that he is anti-Semitic.

Smith, however, would not disavow the remarks he mode at the National Affairs Briefing, a gathering of fundamentalist Christians in Dallas last month. Rabbi Marc Tanenboum, director of the interreligious affairs department of the American Jewish Committee, described Smith’s assertion as “invincible ignorance” of the Jewish faith and “almost totally at variance with the major pronouncements of the Southern Baptist Convention. ” Smith is Pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church in Del City; Okla.

Smith’s Dallas speech was recorded by Milton Tobian, executive director of the AJ Committee’s North Texas region which mailed transcripts to Jewish leaders this week. Smith was recorded as saying. “It is interesting, at great political rallies, how you have a Protestant to pray, a Catholic to pray, and then you have a low to pray. With all due respects to those dear people, my friends, God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.”


Responding this week to the angry reactions to his remarks. Smith declared “I am pro-Jew. I believe they are God’s special people. I believe they are still loved in the heart of God and that the Jews are some of the greatest blessings human thy has ever had, but without Jesus Christ they are lost. No prayer gets through that is not prayed through Jesus.” He claimed that “Jews’ have an argument with me because they have an argument with the New Testament.”

Smith’s remarks were condemned by a colleague, Dr. James Dunn, director of the Dallas-based Christian Life Commission of Texas Baptists. Dunn observed that “Baptists of their best have always believed in religious liberty” but “you can’t really believe in religious liberty without respecting the religious convictions of others. ” He added, “if God Almighty cannot hear the prayers of Jews, you’re putting pretty severe limits on your doctrine of God.”

Recommended from JTA