An evangelical pastor who delivered a prayer at the opening of America’s Jerusalem embassy has been dubbed a “bigot” by Mitt Romney over controversial past comments.
Robert Jeffress, a well-known preacher and spiritual adviser to Donald Trump, has previously said that Muslims and Jews are going to hell.
Mr Jeffress delivered a three minute prayer with his eyes closed at the opening ceremony on Monday but his role prompted a backlash.
Mr Romney, who was the Republican candidate for the presidency in 2012 and is a Mormon, took to Twitter to voice his criticism.
He wrote: “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.”
The message was liked by more than 30,000 other Twitter users.
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.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) May 14, 2018
In an apparent response to the criticism, Mr Jeffress tweeted: “Historic Christianity has taught for 2,000 years that salvation is through faith in Christ alone.
“The fact that I, along with tens of millions of evangelical Christians around the world, continue to espouse that belief, is neither bigoted nor newsworthy.”
Mr Jeffress is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, a Southern Baptist megachurch in Texas, and is a member of Mr Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board.
He is said to have made more than 2,000 media appearances – regularly on the right-leaning Fox News cable channel – and has written 23 books.
Mr Jeffress said in his 2008 ‘Politically Incorrect’ series: “God sends good people to Hell. Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism—not only do they lead people away from the true God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell.
“You know Jesus was very clear: Hell is not only going to be populated by murderers, and drug dealers, and child abusers; Hell is going to be filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.”
Mr Romney has re-entered frontline politics by running to become the senator for Utah.