An Alabama pastor is seeing quite a bit of controversy over his decision to hold a 3-day, "whites only" conference with Christian Identity Ministries; he says his congregation is treated unfairly and that they should be able to worship however they please.
Reverend Mel Lewis contends that his white followers are the "chosen race" and says the American right to practice religion should be given to them as it is to others. And while the Ku Klux Klan is supporting the event, Lewis insists the group is not sponsoring it. He's upset about fliers for the event being taken down, calling it "religious censorship"; the fliers read, "Annual Pastors Conference All White Christians Invited." But business owners say they took them down because the ads were put up in the middle of the night, without permission.
"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.
The conference is set to take place in Lamar County, Alabama, and many local residents are upset about how others will view the county--and the state--afterward, especially when the church plans to host what they call a "sacred Christian cross-lighting", which involves setting a wooden cross on fire.
Mayor Wayne Silas said he was surprised at the event's announcement.
"Business people are upset. The city is upset. The city of Winfield does not condone this," Silas said.
Lewis, along with Reverend William J. Collier, is organizing the event. They say only white Christians are invited for a reason.
"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," Reverend Collier said.