The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A look at Robert Jeffress, the controversial figure giving the prayer at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem today

Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress spoke at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem May 14. Here's a look at some of his controversial statements. (Video: Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

One of President Trump's closest evangelical advisers gave the prayer Monday at the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. But Robert Jeffress's past comments about other faiths, including Judaism, followed him to the event.

Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, a Southern Baptist megachurch in Texas, regularly talks about the significance of Jerusalem to conservative Christians — a major component of Trump’s base of supporters.

Jerusalem welcomes the new U.S. Embassy as Palestinians decry ‘hostile’ move

Long before Jeffress began defending Trump on cable news, he made headlines for attacking other Americans whose faith is different from his own — something former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney noted Sunday on Twitter.

“Robert Jeffress says 'you can’t be saved by being a Jew,' and 'Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.' He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem,” tweeted Romney, a candidate for the Senate in Utah and a Mormon.

Here are just five controversial things Jeffress has said in the past.

Mormonism is a 'cult'

Following the 2011 Value Voters Summit, Jeffress told reporters that Mormonism is a “cult” and that voting for Romney for president would “give credibility to a cult” — a position he first took in the 2008 election.

At the time, Jeffress said he was planning to give a sermon in which he would talk about “how a Christian should vote.” One of his criteria for candidates: “Is he a Christian?”

Many evangelicals, he said, were afraid to talk about Mormonism but would have a hard time voting for a Mormon candidate.

He added, “As a pastor I am not nearly as concerned about a candidate's record on fiscal issues or immigration issues” as about social conservative bona fides.

Jews and Muslims going 'to Hell'

In a 2010 Politically Incorrect lecture series, Jeffress was criticized for sharing a view on eternity held by many orthodox Christians:

“God sends good people to Hell. Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism — not only do they lead people away from God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell.”

The Catholic Church is an instrument of Satan

On his television show “Pathway” to Victory in 2010, Jeffress called the Catholic Church an instrument of Satan. He said:

If you want to counterfeit a dollar bill, you don’t do it with purple paper and red ink, you’re not going to fool anybody with that. But if you want to counterfeit money, what you do is make it look closely related to the real thing as possible.
And that’s what Satan does with counterfeit religion. He uses, he steals, he appropriates all of the symbols of true biblical Christianity, and he changes it just enough in order to cause people to miss eternal life.

Catholicism is the result of 'corruption'

In a 2011 sermon, Jeffress called Catholicism a “cult-like, pagan religion” that “infected the early Church” and “corrupted” it by showing “the genius of Satan.”

He said:

“Today the Roman Catholic Church is the result of that corruption. Much of what you see in the Catholic Church today doesn't come from God's word. It comes from this cultlike pagan religion. You say, 'Well, now, Pastor, how can you say such a thing? That is such an indictment of the Catholic Church.' After all, the Catholic Church talks about God and the Bible and Jesus and the blood of Christ and salvation. Isn't that the genius of Satan?”

Clinton supporters are going to hell

In a Fox News debate, Jeffress defending his support for Trump by telling analyst Juan Williams that backing Hillary Clinton would send him to the lowest depths of hell.

“The other choice was Hillary Clinton, and although my friend Juan describes her as kind of St. Hillary of Chappaqua, she's hardly a bastion of virtue herself.

“If I am going to hell, Juan — like you say I am for supporting Donald Trump — then that means you're going to be a hundred floors below me for supporting Hillary Clinton,” he added.