The good folk of Winfield, Ala. have been very upset by the news of an annual pastors conference taking place near their town. Not because of any animosity towards religious gatherings, but rather to the stipulation that only white Christians are invited.
Tyler Cantrell, the manager of Norris Music in downtown Winfield, discovered a flier for the conference earlier this week. “It was put up throughout the town in the middle of the night. When everyone was asleep and without the permission of the business owner[s],” he told WBRC news.
Despite the fact that the three-day conference in neighboring Lamar County was reportedly festooned with confederate flags and banners bearing Ku Klux Klan and white-supremacist slogans, and that it was scheduled to end July 6th with a “Sacred Christian Cross Lighting Ceremony” — not unlike the kind performed by the Klan –organizers denied that his organization was a hate group. “The white race is God’s chosen people,” William C. Collier, the organizer of the event, told WBRC. “We don’t have the facilities to accommodate other people. We haven’t got any invitations to black, Muslim events. Of course we are not invited to Jewish events and stuff.”
The Christian Identity Ministries, which is running the event along with the Church of God’s Chosen, also claims on its website that the “Europeans and their descendants are the chosen people of God.” Ministry founder Mel Lewis spoke with a reporter from WAFF TV and claimed that the town’s mayor was violating their right to free speech and religious freedom.
“We are not breaking any laws. We’re not violating any ordinances. We’re bringing the Word of God to people who want it, obviously, or they wouldn’t be here,” said Lewis.
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However the town’s Mayor, Wayne Silas, sees it differently. He told WBRC that “Business people are upset. The city is upset. The city of Winfield does not condone this.”