From Bob Smietana at the Tennessean:
Nashville’s anti-Shariah conference now has a new place and a new name.
Cornerstone Church in Madison agreed to host the Nov. 11 conference after its contract with Hutton Hotel in Nashville was canceled. Hotel management cited concerns about protests and safety. Organizers said the hotel is censoring their views on Islam.
The conference, once called the Preserving Freedom Conference, is now called the Constitution or Sharia Conference.
Conference organizer William Murray said 300 people are signed up for the Nov. 11 event — more than were registered before the cancellation…
…The Rev. Maury Davis of Cornerstone said he agreed to host the conference because he wants to learn more about Shariah law and its impact on American culture. Earlier this year, the church hosted a speech by Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician who is highly critical of Islam.
I blogged on the planned Hutton Hotel event back in September (Paul Diamond of the UK Christian Legal Centre was one of the listed participants), and on Wilders’ visit to the Cornerstone Church here. Events involving Geller have also recently been turned away from the Hyatt Place Houston and the Foyer de l’Etudiant Catholique in Strasbourg.
Smietana’s report has angered Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller – Geller writes that:
…I have been invited to speak at the new conference, but right now I’m more concerned with the marginalization and ghettoizing of our message of freedom. I am not going to consent to the attempts of the Left and Islamic supremacists to drive our defense of freedom from public spaces.”
Smietana has it wrong — it was not moved it was canceled. Cornerstone is an altogether different event.
Inevitably, both claim that Smietana has conflated the two events because he’s “notoriously pro-jihad, anti-freedom”, and allegedly in league with the “Hamas-tied, anti-Jewish group CAIR” – Geller and Spencer always precede every mention of those they consider hostile with ritual lists of accusations and abuse [See update below for more on this].
One can understand why Geller and Spencer are so adamant that the “Shariah Conference” is not the “Preserving Freedom” conference under another name: the Hutton Hotel cancellation has generated considerable media interest, and a relocation to Davis’s church would again highlight their problematic relationship with the Christian Right. Back in 2010, their association with Martin Mawyer of the Christian Action Network did not end well, due to public attention on Mawyers’ fulminations against homosexuality; Davis takes an authoritarian line on the same issue:
…Our founding fathers never considered constitutional rights to include socially destructive and morally deviant behavior. Rest assured, homosexuality was considered a perversion by our founding fathers and by most generations of Americans until recent media pollution clouded the issue.
One person recently told me that a person cannot legislate morality. I totally disagree! Our founding fathers expected not only to create a Democratic society, but a society with morals based in the Christian religion…
Davis is also personally controversial, having served time for killing a middle-aged woman in 1975 (his knife reportedly nearly decapitated his victim).
William J. Murray, meanwhile, runs the Religious Freedom Coalition – he is famous as the evangelist son of of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, and he was also due to speak at the “Preserving Freedom” conference. Back in May, he made something of a spectacle of himself at the launch of Janet Porter’s “Israel You’re Not Alone” campaign, which was held at the National Press Club in Washington. By a strange co-incidence, the event followed a room booking by the Council for the National Interest, which opposes pro-Israeli lobbies and policies. Some heated discussion occurred when the two groups met, in particular a spat between Murray and the CNI’s Alison Weir (website tag-line: “I am not the British historian, please stop threatening her”). Murray accused Weir of hating Jews, and Weir responded by filming Murray on her camera; Murray then smacked the camera out of her hand and across the room, prompting Gen William “Jerry” Boykin, who was standing next to him, to head discretely for the exit.
UPDATE: The website of the Shariah Awareness Action Network announced on 31 October that
National Conference Relocated
The Sharia Awareness Action Network has changed the venue of it’s Preserving Freedom Conference: The Constitutuion or Sharia to… Cornerstone Church
Because of the unjustified cancellation by the Hutton Hotel there will be no banquet. The total registration fee has been dropped from $75.00 to $20.00 which includes lunch.
Meanwhile, Don Feder, who was listed as the “project coordinator” for the original conference, issued a press release on 27 October stating that:
In a demand letter to an executive of the Hutton Hotel, an attorney for “The Constitution or Shariah: Preserving Freedom Conference” says the hotel “has unjustifiably and improperly cancelled the contract to provide the venue for this conference” and promises to “pursue all available remedies.”
…The conference webpage is www.preservingfreedomconference.org. For more information or to schedule an interview William Murray, contact Don Feder.
That weblink automatically re-directs to the SAAN website.
So, both the old conference and the new conference use the “Constitution or Shariah” name; the line-up is largely the same; and a website officially associated with the original conference and the new conference calls it a “relocation” and talks about the price having been “dropped” due to the Hutton Hotel cancellation.
It would appear that Geller and Spencer’s claim that Smietana “has it wrong” is a barefaced lie – and that behind the scenes there may be some tensions within the wider anti-Shariah “movement”.
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