Freedom Of Speech?

Freedom Of Speech?

American Renaissance conference sparks protests from Jewish group.

A conference planned for February of 2008 at the Crowne Plaza Dulles Airport hotel in Herndon is drawing attention as a New York-based Jewish organization is demanding that the hotel cancel it. The group claims the conference will entertain anti-Semitic and anti-minority lectures and comments.

"We don’t believe that Nazis have the right to speak," said Jess Adler, a spokesman for the Jewish Defense Organization (JDO). "We don’t let them speak, we don’t let them grow," said Adler. His group, numbering around 4,000 in the U.S., is calling on people to call the Crowne Plaza to get the conference cancelled.

American Renaissance, an Oakton-based magazine in its 19th year of publication, is the conference organizer. Jared Taylor, the magazine’s editor, said JDO is wrong in its assertions about the conference. "They are grievously uninformed," said Taylor. He said he has never heard of JDO and said American Renaissance focuses on examining racial issues. "The focus is to investigate problems of race and immigration, not just in America, but worldwide," he said.

The repeating series of riots in France are an example of problems the publication, and its conferences, examines, said Taylor. He said the people announced to speak at the conference come from international academia. "They are all very well informed people," said Taylor. "In fact, two of our speakers are Jews."

ADLER DISMISSED Taylor’s claim about the Jewish speakers at the conference, saying that some speakers could be unaware of what they are getting into. According to Adler, scheduled speakers have walked out from previous conferences organized by Taylor when they realized the purpose of those conferences. Adler said area residents alerted JDO about the conference, prompting the effort to cancel it. He said previous Taylor-organized conferences have given a platform to people such as David Duke, a Louisiana politician, whose Web site claims he has dedicated his life to freedom and heritage of European American peoples. Adler said a similar JDO effort managed to cancel Duke’s own conference at a Richmond hotel last year.

"They must be great believers in freedom of speech," said Taylor about JDO. "I think they should be ashamed of themselves" for attempting to cancel the conference. He said JDO’s effort is "utterly contemptible" and asked, "Is this a way you run a democracy?" Taylor said that as long as the conference is a legal gathering, there should be nothing wrong with it. "They sound like Nazis to me, trying to shut down this conference," said Taylor. "We are exchanging views, that’s what democracy is about."

Adler said it is important to stop such meetings, because they can lead to more. "Hitler started with six people in a beer hall," he said. "Freedom of speech ends when bigotry begins."

ADLER DRAWS his information about potential racists, anti-Semites and white supremacists from the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center. The center was established in 1971 as a small civil rights law firm. The center’s Web file lists Taylor as a person to watch. It also states that Taylor’s conferences are well attended and have international reach.

Booth Gunter, the public affairs director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said people listed on the center’s Web pages are labeled after going through an internal evaluation. "It’s a judgment about their public statements and also their activity," said Gunter.

The American Renaissance conference is scheduled for Feb. 22 to Feb. 24 at the Crowne Plaza Dulles Airport hotel in Herndon. The American Renaissance Web site states that the conference will "discuss the forces that will determine our future." It adds that the speakers and guests are "undeceived, outspoken and committed to the defense of Western Civilization."

A phone call to the hotel’s general manager was not returned.