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World News

Tribunal rules vicar engaged in anti-Semitic behaviour

by Marcus Jones

A Church of England vicar has been found to have "provoked and offended the Jewish community" with conduct "unbecoming to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders".

Rev Stephen Sizer, who has now retired, was investigated following a complaint made by the Board of Deputies which represents the Jewish community in Britain.

The allegations were raised in 2018 with a hearing taking place in May this year.

While eleven allegations were made, four of them were upheld by a Church of England tribunal, with one of those ruling that his behaviour was indeed anti-Semitic.

The most serious allegation addressed was his posting of a link on Facebook which blamed Israel for the 9/11 terror attacks.

The ruling stated: "The tribunal finds the article in its tone and content truly shocking."

While Sizer claimed he had not read the article in full before posting, the tribunal found that suggestion "implausible and untrue". It also claimed he knew it would provoke and offend the Jewish community.

Other criticisms of Sizer were over the sharing of platforms with holocaust deniers as well as a meeting with a Hezbollah commander.

Responding to the verdict, Sizer said: "I accept those conclusions and the criticisms of my conduct, and apologise unreservedly for the hurt and offence caused. 

"As I said at the time, I am particularly sorry that I posted a link on Facebook in January 2015 to an article blaming Israel for 9/11, and repeat my apology for the deep hurt that my conduct caused.

"I do not propose to say any more at this juncture as I pray and reflect further."

The tribunal's findings have been welcomed by the Board of Deputies of British Jews President Marie van der Zyl.

In a statement, she said: "In an unprecedented judgement, it has been found that Reverend Sizer has engaged in 'anti-Semitic activity', repeated 'conduct unbecoming' of a Church of England Minister and engaged in conduct that 'provoked and offended' the Jewish community over a sustained period. 

"He was also criticised for being 'disingenuous in his answers'. 

"I am grateful to the Tribunal for accepting the evidence of the Board of Deputies. The Board will always act to defend and protect the Jewish community. I also wish to thank my predecessor, Jonathan Arkush for his work in pursing this case with me on behalf of the Jewish community."

The Church of England is expected to announce a punishment at a later date. It could include a ban on serving within the Church.


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