John Hagee Coming to Birmingham

From the Birmingham Post (UK):

Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby has been urged to cancel a planned rally led by a controversial American pastor.

Richard Burden (Lab Northfield) has written to Coun Whitby asking him to confirm whether the rally will be allowed to go ahead, and asking whether he believes it is ethical to receive payment for the event.

The pastor is John Hagee, who has hired Birmingham’s Symphony Hall for a rally in August; as the Post notes:

…Mr Hagee has been criticised in the US for a series of controversial statements.

He compared Adolf Hitler in one sermon to a “hunter” sent by God to force Jews to live in Israel and said the Koran gave Muslims “a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews”.

He also claimed that Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,800 people in 2005, was “the judgment of God against New Orleans” because of a planned “homosexual parade”.

Hagee’s “Hitler is a hunter” sermon was uncovered by Bruce Wilson in 2008, and led to John McCain repudiating Hagee’s presidential endorsement. The Birmingham Post, meanwhile, has a quote from Rabbi Shlomo Odze, of Birmingham Central Synagogue, accusing Hagee of anti-Semitism; this isn’t a description I would use, and I’ve blogged on Hagee’s views about Jews and and Judaism here. Hagee is also close to Glenn Beck – he appeared on his show a number of times, and he offered prayers the evening before Beck’s “Divine Destiny” event last year.

This will not be the first time that Hagee will have come to the UK – he passed through on the way to Nigeria in December 2009 (there’s a nice picture of him here at the airport reading the Daily Mail), and he held a rally in May 2010 at Westminster Central Hall. Accounts submitted by the John Hagee Ministries UK charity have further details:

The charity hosted the first John Hagee Ministries UK Rally in London on 14th-15th May 2010. This was attended by over 2800 delegates over the 2 days. John Hagee preached to a packed auditorium at Westminster Central Hall, London on the Friday Evening on the subject “Who Is God?” and then taught at 4 sessions on the Saturday on the book of Revelation. Additionally, a Partner’s Dinner was hosted on Thursday 13th May with over 150 Partner’s in attendance. On the Saturday morning over 180 Pastors gathered to be taught by Pastor Hagee on Spiritual Authority.

JHM UK is based in an office in Swindon, in the west of England, and is headed by a certain Des Starritt, who provides management services for a number of organisations and religious ministries.

Burden, meanwhile, has contrasted Hagee with Raed Salah, leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Salah entered the UK for a visit late last month and was waved through by border officials; it was belatedly realised he was supposed to be banned, and he was arrested following a talk in Leicester. Burden had been due to take part in a later event with Salah at the Houses of Parliament; Salah has a reputation for moderation, although there is (I would say, conclusive) evidence that this reputation is undeserved – see here and here. In particular, Salah has promoted the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jews who worked in the World Trade Center were tipped off prior to 9/11.

UPDATE (14 July): I have just become aware of a group called Mordecai Voice (reported as “Mordecai’s Voice”), which recently held a rally outside the Israeli Embassy in London. According to its website, this group is planning a “UK Night to honour Israel”, citing John Hagee by name as the “American equivalent”. Mordecai Voice is a project of Pastor Tim Gutmann, who is with the Derbyshire-based Junction 28 Church.

(Corrected: Burden was not at the talk in Leicester. Thanks to a reader for pointing that out)