The “Christian rabbi” who was invited onstage by Vice President Mike Pence at a Tuesday rally for a congressional candidate in Michigan to lead a prayer in memory of the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting victims was defrocked 15 years ago, the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations told NBC News.
The choice of Loren Jacobs outraged some Jews, who were insulted by the choice of a man belonging to a group that believes Jesus is the son of God for the remembrance of the synagogue victims. Some Jews have said that Jacobs should not be called a rabbi, given that his beliefs align more with Christianity than Judaism.
According to NBC, a spokeswoman for the religious group said the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations stripped Jacobs of his rabbinic ordination “after our judicial board found him guilty of libel.” It’s unclear what that libel would refer to, but NBC notes that he had expressed views that the group had not been conservative enough when it came to doctrine.
The Michigan candidate Pence was appearing for, Lena Epstein, is a member of a Detroit-area synagogue. A spokesman for Pence said that Epstein had invited Jacobs. In response to the backlash over the choice of the religious leader, Epstein said on Twitter that criticism of her and Pence amounted to “religious intolerance.”
She did not mention Jacobs but instead said she had “invited the prayer because we must unite as a nation—while embracing our religious differences—in the aftermath of Pennsylvania.”
Pence’s appearance with Jacobs wasn’t the only time the Trump administration has been criticized for its handling of the Pittsburgh shooting. Appearing on Fox & Friends afterward, Kellyanne Conway suggested that the Trump administration could be considered a victim of unfair accusations that the president’s inflammatory rhetoric has contributed to the rise of anti-Semitic hate crimes since the election, and she asserted that the massacre amounted to anti-religiosity in general, bringing Christianity into a specifically Jewish tragedy.