An Arizona pastor who recently called for the execution of homosexuals, has allegedly tricked rabbis into appearing in a documentary which has been described as anti-Jewish.
Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe preached a sermon on 30 November, and later posted on YouTube, in which he said gay people should be killed to prevent the spread of AIDS. He subsequently defended his beliefs in a TV interview.
Anderson has also been working on film called 'Marching to Zion', expected to be released in March 2015 and has already posted a number of sermons on the subject on YouTube, including two entitled 'The Jews and Their Lies'.
The new film, which Anderson has produced with Paul Wittenberger, is described on YouTube as providing "Scriptural evidence that the Jews are no longer God's chosen people" and revealing that rabbinical Judaism's Messiah is the Antichrist, as well as showing the "Blasphemous teachings of the Talmud and Kabbalah".
According to a report on the local website Jewish News, which describes Anderson's views as anti-Semitic, the rabbis who took part did not realise what kind of film it was.
Anderson allegedly approached a number of Jewish leaders and scholars, describing himself as "an interested layperson" making a documentary explaining elements of the Jewish faith.
Rabbi Irwin Wiener, one of the men interviewed, said: "The subterfuge that he used to get these interviews from us is beyond belief."
Anderson had said the documentary he was making was for the television network PBS. "When he used the words PBS to me, it sounded legitimate and I didn't pursue it any further," Wiener said.
Another interviewee, Orthodox Rabbi Reuven Mann, said he felt he had a responsibility to explain his faith to anyone who was interested. "I'm very open about this and I don't suspect that anyone has any ulterior motives," he said.
Mann described the interviewers as polite, curious and knowledgeable.
Jeffrey Schesnol, a Jewish ceremonial leader, said that his interviewer told him he was working for a Los Angeles-based film company making an educational film.
The Jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a statement about the film in November, saying the organisation was "deeply troubled by the upcoming release of a new 'documentary' geared toward Christian audiences that purportedly will focus on 'the history of the Jews,' but in fact will likely serve as a tool for denigrating Jews and Judaism."
The ADL also told the clerics about the film, and advised them that they should legal counsel if they had concerns.
Mann told Jewish News that he will be "pursuing all legal remedies against all the parties who were involved in this heinous scam."
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When Phoenix TV station KPNX anchor Mark Curtis interviewed Anderson challenged Anderson on his views about gay people, Anderson answered: "I'm a religious zealot." He read from Leviticus 20:13, "If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination, they shall surely be put to death, their blood shall be upon them" and said: "You know, as a Christian I believe the Bible and that's where I get my belief."
Asked about the commandment "Thou shalt not kill", Anderson said: "What you have to understand is that the Bible commands that certain people be put to death – not by me, not by Christians, it's obviously not my job or the job of any Christian to go out and kill anybody and I've never taught anything like that, but rather that the Government's job is to punish criminals and to execute those who've committed capital crimes , and according to the Bible homosexuality is a capital crime. I didn't write the Bible."
Anderson founded Faithful Word Baptist Church in 2005 as an independent church.
About 100 people gathered outside the church on Sunday 7 December in a peaceful demonstration against Anderson. Christians were among the protesters, carrying signs that said "Teach love not hate," "Jesus loves everybody" and "AIDS is not a gay disease".
Local pastor Rev Jeffrey Dirrim gave communion to protesters and Rabbi Dean Shapiro, of Temple Emanuel of Tempe, read a statement to the crowd. "We deplore this pastor's hate speech and calls for violence, especially when these statements come from a man who purports to be a faith leader in our community and especially during this season when we long for peace, justice and reconciliation," he said.