A pastor has upset the townspeople of Winfield, Alabama by holding a conference for white Christians, complete with Confederate flags, Ku Klux Klan insignia and a cross-burning ceremony.
The group supporting the conference contends they have a right to religious freedom like every other American, and this right should have prevented the town mayor from ordering their flyers to the trash, WAFF 48 reported.
“When did they start religious censorship?” Rev. Mel Lewis, founder of Christian Identity Ministries and the conference’s keynote speaker, asked.
Flyers popped up across town Sunday night advertising the July 4-6 conference with bold letters declaring, “Annual Pastors Conference, All White Christians invited.”
An unidentified person posted one flyer at a music store without the owner’s permission “in the middle of the night … when everyone was asleep,” Norris Music manager Tyler Cantrell told WECT6.
“It’s surprising to see something like that in our town,” Cantrell said. “I know it’s been here in the past.”
Rev. William J. Collier organized the third annual conference and represents the Church of God’s Chosen, a controversial Christian church that believes that whites are God’s chosen people.
Mayor Wayne Silas said he and other residents are not pleased with the event because it does not represent the community.
“Business people are upset. The city is upset,” Silas told WECT6. “The city of Winfield does not condone this.”
Winfield had a population of about 4,700 in 2010, and nearly 93 percent of its population identified themselves as white.
Collier insisted his church is not a hate group and defended the exclusive invitation.
“We don’t have the facilities to accommodate other people,” Collier told WECT6. “We haven’t got any invitations to black, Muslim events. Of course we are not invited to Jewish events and stuff.”
White Christians can listen to the sermons, play horseshoes and, on Friday evening, light crosses on fire in a “sacred Christian cross lighting ceremony.”
“We are not breaking any laws. We’re not violating any ordinances,” Lewis told WAFF 48. “We’re bringing the Word of God to people who want it, obviously, or they wouldn’t be here.”
Ku Klux Klan supporters are participating in the conference, but the KKK did not sponsor the event.
Other Christian churches in the area held Independence Day celebrations Wednesday evening, open to everyone.