An Oklahoma pastor who is the chairman of the state’s Republican Party authored a Facebook post last week that compared COVID-19 vaccine mandates to the persecution of Jews in the Holocaust.
The sentiment expressed by John Bennett, pastor of Lee Creek Assembly of God in Muldrow, Okla., was roundly denounced by Jewish organizations and by members of his own political party in Oklahoma. But faced with this criticism, the former state legislator doubled down and defended his point of view.
The Facebook post shows a photo of a yellow Star of David with the word “Unvaccinated,” and the text makes an appeal for “patriots” in the state to call the lieutenant governor while the governor was out of the country and urge him to call a special session of the Legislature to outlaw vaccine mandates for employees of private companies in the state.
After other state Republican leaders denounced the post, going so far as to call it “abhorrent,” the Pentecostal pastor created a six-minute video to expand on his call to action and raise money for the party.
“If we don’t do something now, it’s going to end in the same exact result as we saw when nobody stood up whenever the Jews were told that they had to wear that star,” he said in the video. “The Star of David, when they put that on the Jews, they weren’t sending them directly to the gas chambers, they weren’t sending them directly to the (incinerator), this was leading up to that. They gave them a star to put on and they couldn’t go to the grocery store, they couldn’t go out in public, they couldn’t do anything without having that star on their shirt. Take away the star and add a vaccine passport.”
There has been no talk of creating or requiring vaccine passports in Oklahoma, a solidly
Republican state that voted heavily for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. In fact, the state Legislature already passed a bill prohibiting public schools from requiring vaccine documentation for students.
Yet Bennett also used the video to rail against a perceived threat of “a totalitarian government pushing communist agenda” and “forcing people, against their own liberties, to get this vaccine.”
Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who is a fierce foe of the Biden administration in Washington, has said he will never mandate COVID-19 vaccines in Oklahoma.
Stitt was among those who publicly criticized Bennett’s Facebook post and video. He joined in a statement issued along with six other Republican elected officials to say: “People should have the liberty to choose if they take the vaccine, but we should never compare the unvaccinated to the victims of the Holocaust.”
Bennett is not the first Republican to compare COVID vaccines to the Holocaust.
In late June, a Washington state legislator wore a yellow Star of David at a speech given inside a church gymnasium, where he said most of the people in attendance also were wearing the symbol as a protest against being vaccinated.
The Seattle Times reported that Rep. Jim Walsh explained his actions on Facebook: “It’s an echo from history. In the current context, we’re all Jews.”
Outspoken freshman Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina told Fox News in March that proposals to create any kind of vaccine passport or documentation in America “smack of 1940s Nazi Germany. We must make every effort to keep America from becoming a ‘show your papers’ society. The Constitution and our founding principles decry this type of totalitarianism.”
In March, the Jerusalem Post reported: “Richard Grenell, former President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Germany and a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, tweeted a meme showing a Nazi Gestapo officer in the Quentin Tarantino film ‘Inglorious Basterds’ saying, ‘You’re hiding unvaccinated people under your floorboards, aren’t you?’ The original line from the movie uses similar wording in referring to Jews.”
And in July, Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia was forced to apologize for comparing the requirement to wear face masks in the House chambers to the atrocities of the Holocaust.
It’s not just Republicans who have made ill-timed comparisons between the vaccines and the Star of David.
During the Jewish Passover, the Libertarian Party of Kentucky tweeted, “Are the vaccine passports going to be yellow, shaped like a star, and sewn on our clothes?”
The recurring theme of comparing required vaccination to the Holocaust became such a problem in Southern California that Jewish leaders there made public statements to explain why the two are not alike.
“I’m a child of immigrants, and my mother was a Holocaust survivor. And the misuse of the rhetoric of the Holocaust is appalling. And it just shows the desperation and ignorance of those using it,” University Synagogue Rabbi Arnold Rachlis told Voice of Orange County.
The rabbi spoke out after Orange County residents protested at a board of supervisors meeting, comparing the idea of a vaccine passport to the Star of David, with some protesters wearing yellow stars to the meeting.