C of E vicar who shared claims 9/11 was Israeli plot barred for antisemitism

<span>Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA</span>
Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

A vicar who shared an article suggesting Israel was responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks has been barred from the ministry for 12 years for antisemitism.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews made 11 allegations against the Rev Dr Stephen Sizer, which claimed his conduct in incidents between 2005 and 2018 amounted to antisemitic activity.

Sizer, the former vicar of Christ Church in Virginia Water, Surrey, admitted the “factual basis” of all allegations against him but disputed that his conduct was antisemitic.

However, a church tribunal found that he engaged in antisemitic conduct with respect to suggesting Israel’s responsibility for 9/11.

The hearing found his conduct was “unbecoming to the office and work of a clerk in holy order” and he had committed misconduct under the clergy disciplinary measure 2003. He was handed a “penalty judgment”, barring him from licensed ministry in the Church of England for 12 years.

Following the penalty judgment against Sizer, the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “It is clear that the behaviour of Stephen Sizer has undermined Christian-Jewish relations, giving encouragement to conspiracy theories and tropes that have no place in public Christian ministry and the church.

“I renew my call for the highest possible standards among ordained ministers of the Church of England in combating antisemitism of all kinds.”

The tribunal heard that in 2006, Sizer met Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, a senior commander of the Islamist militant group Hezbollah, in a secret location in or near Tyre in Lebanon. In 2010, he posted a link to an article entitled “The Mother of All Coincidences”, which pushed the conspiracy theory that 9/11 was an Israeli plot.

In 2015, he promoted the idea that Israel was behind 9/11 by posting a link on Facebook to an article entitled “9/11/Israel did it”. In an interview in March 2018 on Australian radio, Sizer defended the link he posted to the article by saying it had to be “considered”.

The vicar told the tribunal he had been the target of a “10-year campaign of intimidation and harassment” and that his views had been “routinely misrepresented and distorted”.

He said he had “repeatedly and unequivocally repudiated racism, antisemitism and Holocaust denial in his lectures, books and website articles”.