Vicar who shared controversial 9/11 article engaged in antisemitic activity, tribunal finds
A vicar engaged in antisemitic activity by sharing an article that suggested Israel was responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks, a church disciplinary hearing has found.
Reverend Dr Stephen Sizer had been accused of being "unbecoming and inappropriate" in his conduct between 2005 to 2018 in 11 allegations made against him by the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
The former vicar of Christ Church in Virginia Water, Surrey, admitted the "factual basis" of the allegations against him but disputed that his conduct was unbecoming and inappropriate.
Dr Sizer also denied provoking and causing offence to the Jewish Community, as well as engaging in antisemitic activity.
Despite this, the tribunal found in four out of the 11 allegations his conduct was "unbecoming to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Order" because he provoked and offended the Jewish community and/or engaged in antisemitic activity.
He was given a "penalty judgment" for committing misconduct under the Clergy Disciplinary Measure 2003, meaning he is banned from licensed ministry in the Church of England until 2030.
Dr Sizer met Sheikh Nabil Kaouk in 2006, a "senior commander of Hezbollah forces", in a secret location in or near Tyre, Lebanon, though he insisted he did not instigate the meeting.
The tribunal concluded that it was "unacceptable" for an ordained minister to make an "unauthorised visit" to a senior commander of the military wing of Hezbollah other than in an official capacity, and that his conduct provoked and offended the Jewish community.
In September 2010, Dr Sizer shared a link to an article called The Mother of All Coincidences, which suggested the conspiracy theory that 9/11 was an Israeli plot.
The tribunal said an ordained minister should not have given "the oxygen of publicity" to such an article, and found his conduct was unbecoming and inappropriate as he provoked and offended the Jewish community, but decided he was not engaging in antisemitic activity.
An article Dr Sizer shared in January 2015, entitled 9/11/Israel, was found to be "virulently antisemitic" by the tribunal and fulfilled "all the tropes of antisemitism".
It rejected the vicar's assertion that the article raised "serious issues" that needed to be discussed and concluded his conduct was unbecoming on the grounds that he provoked and offended the Jewish community, and he was "engaging in antisemitic activity" by posting the link.
Dr Sizer defended sharing the article in an interview in 2018, saying the theory had to be "considered", with his conduct during the interview deemed as unbecoming.
The remaining allegations against Dr Sizer were:
Participating in a conference run by the Islamic Human Rights Commission called Towards a New Liberation Theology in 2005;
Speaking at a conference in Indonesia in May 2008 alongside Holocaust denier Fred Tobin;
Promoting another Holocaust denier and antisemitic conspiracy theorist Michael Hoffman in June 2008;
Citing Holocaust deniers and far-right figures, in particular Dale Crowley, in January 2009;
Accompanying and defending an Islamic Movement leader Raed Salah in June 2011;
Attending an event in October 2016 chaired by Baroness Tonge in breach of an agreement with the Bishop of Guildford;
Posting an item on Facebook in August 2018 in relation to former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn being a victim of "the hidden hands of Zionists".
The tribunal found seven further allegations did not prove the vicar's conduct was unbecoming or inappropriate for an ordained minister or that he had engaged in antisemitic activity.
'10 year campaign of harassment'
Dr Sizer claimed he has 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".
Following the penalty judgment for the vicar, the Archbishop of Canterbury said it was "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".
He added: "I renew my call for the highest possible standards among ordained ministers of the Church of England in combating antisemitism of all kinds."