'White Christians' Conference Sparks Controversy in Alabama
By Grace Oshiro - Crossmap On July 8, 2012
CIM Annual Pastors Conference
Some pastors in Alabama have raised eyebrows when they held a conference that only invited white Christians.
"Annual Pastors Conference," the fliers said, “All White Christians Invited.”
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The conference was led by Christian Identity Ministries (CIM), which held its annual meeting in Guin, Alabama, between July 4 and 6.
While the organization has been criticized of its racism, Rev. Mel Lewis, the organizer and keynote speaker at the conference insisted that the group have the right to worship however they want.
The conference is designed to speak to those who belong to the "chosen race," Lewis told local news station WAFF-TV.
The mayor of Guin ordered all fliers advertising the conference to be removed after local citizens complained that the fliers were offensive and hateful.
This, according to Lewis, considered as violation of 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," Lewis said.
"Well, you've picked out some wonderful verses out of context and out of the direction of Scripture," Lewis said in an interview, asked whether the group's belief contradicts the Bible, which teaches God considers all men equal.
"All you're doing is making a mockery of God's Word. You're absolutely abusing the Scripture."
Despite their claim to stick to biblical principles, critics have quite a lot to say.
"The only context that I'm familiar with is one that is not very positive," said Hezekiah Jackson, president of the NAACP's Birmingham Metro Chapter, referring on the "Sacred Christian Cross Lighting Ceremony," in which the group burns a cross. The practice has generally been associated with the Ku Klux Klan.
While there is a strong KKK presence, it does not sponsor the event.
"And one that really symbolizes an era that many of us have hoped to put behind us. And that is this whole era of Jim Crow, this whole era of white supremacy, this whole era of discrimination and racial hatred," he added.
"I think it's really hard to clarify what's going on, but it seems to be some vestiges of what we call white supremacy here in Alabama. We just have to be honest about it."
The Rev. Calvin Woods, a member of the Southern Leadership Conference, told WBRC-TV that although Americans have a right to assemble peacefully, the all-white pastor’s conference appears racist, according to The Christian Post.
"It sounds like racism to me," he said. "Everyone has the right to peaceful assembly, but to just point out you only want white Christians, that doesn't sound Christian [to me at all], sounds like something Satan would want."
In defense of the apparent racism, CIM Pastor William Collier pointed to the lack of facilities to accommodate non-whites.
“We’re seldom ever have been invited to black Muslim events and we never have been invited to NAACP events and we never have been invited to join Jewish synagogues events and stuff,” he said.
“It has nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of racism or hate or anything like that."