Lee Gatiss, the 2015 JAEC Facebook page, and Stephen Sizer

In July 2020, in a Church Society blog post, Church Society Director Lee Gatiss wrote this regarding his knowledge of Stephen Sizer’s antisemitic conduct:

“I personally find many of the things now pointed out in his social media and other engagements to be offensive and sometimes ridiculous. I don’t follow him on social media so had not seen these before, or had them pointed out to me as far as I can recall.”

In fact, Lee Gatiss knew about Stephen Sizer’s antisemitic conduct earlier, as this post will demonstrate. 

On 30 January 2015, when Stephen Sizer was in the headlines for (not for the first time) making the antisemitic suggestion that Israel had been complicit in the 9/11 terror attacks, the following was posted in the Junior Anglican Evangelical Conference Facebook group. 

The following comment was posted below it on the same date. Lee Gatiss “liked” it, as shown by the two screenshots below, which show his “like” in different formats: 

The full comment is below: it is posted in two “chunks”, side by side, owing to the difficulty of fitting it all into a single screenshot.

The full text of the comment that Lee Gatiss “liked” is as follows:

What is clear from that Cranmer blog is that Sizer has a history of linking to things that are on the edge of what is acceptable and a number of times he has been called to account and has accepted that he has (apparently unwittingly linked to things on websites that are associated with racism. It is not that he has linked directly to racist material as far as I can see, merely that the same websites also contained racist material – a second degree association. Furthermore, it should be noted that his FB post is set to ‘Friends’ not ‘Public’. 

My biggest issue is that Cranmer’s penultimate paragraph is completely wrong: “The Church of England no longer tolerates membership of the racist BNP. If an ordained minister had linked to BNP websites, musing that they raise legitimate questions of truth and contending that he is “encouraging research and debate on all aspects” of immigration, he would swiftly forfeit his Licence to Preach.”

I can accept synod’s decision that membership of BNP is conduct unbecoming of a minister, but highlighting a webpage is not. That is not what synod agreed and I would be very disappointed if bishops started extending what synod agreed.

Whilst I think Sizer was foolish and wrong to suggest that Israel were linked with 9/11, I stand by his right as both a citizen and a minister to ask these questions and make these suggestions. Would we all be acting differently if it was Iran rather than Israel? Yes the timing is deeply insensitive, but I deeply dislike the curtailment of feedom of speech and Twitter mob justice that is spreading across the society at the moment. 

Or am I totally missing the point?

(Disclaimer: like a number in this group, I am friends with Nick Howard who was quoted by Cranmer. I did not feel able to support his complaint at the time.)

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