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Tag Archive | "Lou Ann Zelenik"

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The 10 Most Islamophobic Moments in the 2012 Elections

Posted on 21 October 2012 by Emperor

A great list of the ten most Islamophobic moments in the 2012 elections by Salon writers,  and . It’s hard to dispute the list, but then again there is so much to chose from.

The 10 most Islamophobic moments in the 2012 elections


When we’re all proven wrong and living in a bacon-less hellscape of Shariah law ruled by the iron fist of Mullah Obama, we can’t say we weren’t warned. According to the right-wing fringe, racism is dead — but long live Islamophobia, for there is jihad in every mosque and we must be vigilant.

But Islamophobia — even from elected officials — is still dramatically undercovered by the media. So you might easily have missed some of these 10 most disgraceful examples of bigotry, ignorance and hate — from obscure county parties to the halls of Congress — during an election cycle with plenty to go around:

10. Allen West is Allen West – Florida Rep. Allen West is known for making inflammatory statements about pretty much everyone, but he has particularly targeted Muslims. This cycle alone, he’s commemorated 9/11 by screening an anti-Islamic film,said that Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison “really does represent the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established,” and another time theorized that “George Bush got snookered into going into some mosque, taking his shoes off, and then saying that Islam was a religion of peace.”

9. Republicans go after one of their own – When David Ramadan, a longtime Republican Party activist and protege of Grover Norquist,  ran for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2011, the Islamophobia network sprang into action. Norquist, of course, is a secret Muslim Brotherhood agent according to these people, so his actual Muslim bud must be worse. Pam Geller called him an “Islamic supremacist,” David Horowitz warned Virginia Republicans not to “lie down in the camel’s bed,” and Frank Gaffney accused him of having ties to Hezbollah. There were nasty ads and exchanges at town halls, but Ramadan won the GOP primary and eventually a seat in the House of Delegates.

8. And again, but this time they call him a “terrorist” – The Islamophobia trickles down all the way to the local level, we found, in the case of Nezar Hamze, a Republican from Florida who tried to join the Broward County Republican Executive Committee but got turned down by a vote of 158 to 11. He met all the requirements, but people in his own party distributed pamphlets labeling him a “terrorist.” The basis? Hamze is head of the local chapter of CAIR.

7. Obama the closeted Muslim – Plenty of people have suggested that President Obama is a secret Muslim this cycle, but California Republican congressional candidate Sam Aanestad wins the award for his remarkable forthrightness: “I was asked, do I think [Obama]‘s a Muslim, and the answer is yes, that is his background. That is his beginning. Is he a Christian today? There’s no way that you or I can tell that. But his background, his upbringing, his tradition, his holiday observances all come from a Muslim background.”

6. Even worse than Allen West – After Allen West fled his old district after redistricting, the good people of Florida’s 22nd got a new Islamophobe to kick around: Adam Hasner, the former Florida House majority leader. The Republican is a close personal friend of anti-Islam bloggers Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, has invited notoriously anti-Muslim Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders to speak in Florida, and once skipped the Florida Legislature’s opening prayers because they were being delivered by an imam. When Salon highlighted his Islamophobic record in August, Geller said it was only a matter of time before we were “getting measured for a suicide vest.”

5. A real-life Muslim in Congress! – Democratic Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison was the first Muslim elected to Congress, so he’s used to it, but his Republican opponent, Chris Fields, accused him this year in a mailer of being “militantly anti-America.” That’s nothing compared to how Fields’ GOP primary opponent came right out and called him a “radical Islamist” in the statement announcing her candidacy for his seat. In fact, Ellison’s religion was her primary motivation for running.

4. A real-life Muslim in Congress! Part 2 —Democratic Rep. Andre Carson of Indiana was the second Muslim elected to Congress and has so far attracted less hate than Ellison, but when he was  praising the innovative ways parochial schools remain relevant, including Muslim schools, it caused a grade-A right-wing freakout, complete with hyperventilating from Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh about how Carson wanted to force students to learn the Quran. One assumes that if Carson had praised St. Mary’s Junior High School instead of a madrassa, no one would have batted an eyelash.

3. Islamophobia-off 2012 – Rep. Diane Black managed to beat out Lou Ann Zelenik in the Republican primary in Tennessee thatbasically came down to an Islamophobia-off. The debate mostly centered around the planned mosque in Murfreesboro, which has become a lightning rod for anti-Muslim sentiment in the area and across the country. In fighting the mosque, Black charged that communities need to protect themselves from the “jihadist viewpoint.” But Zelenik, the executive director of the reliably Islamophobic Tennessee Freedom Coalition, thought Black’s stance didn’t go far enough, firing back: “I will work to stop the Islamization of our society, and do everything possible to prevent Shariah law from circumventing our laws and our Constitution.”

2. Joe Walsh (probably) causes a hate crime – Rep. Joe Walsh, the Tea Party darling poised to lose his seat in November, warned  in August that “a radical strain of Islam in this country … trying to kill Americans every week.” “It’s here. It’s in Elk Grove. It’s in Addison. It’s in Elgin. It’s here,” he added. Hours later, a manshot at a mosque in the district, narrowly missing a security guard outside as 500 people prayed inside.

1. Michele Bachmann’s witch hunt – Then there’s the Tea Party queen herself, Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann. Bachmann is facing a tighter-than-expected race against Democratic hotel magnate Jim Graves, and she has possibly even outdone herself this cycle with allegations that Huma Abedin, a senior aide to Hillary Clinton, is tied to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and potentially part of a conspiracy to influence U.S. policy through her position. Bachmann also used a speech at theValues Voters conference to fear-monger about President Obama’s policy in the Middle East: “The fact is this administration is virtually outlawed understanding who the enemy is and at every turn the enemy the president is persistent on apologizing for who we are as Americans,” she said.


Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at JILLIAN RAYFIELD.

Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon’s political reporter. Email him at, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.MORE ALEX SEITZ-WALD.

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Diane Black Easily Beats Lou Ann Zelenik in 6th District

Posted on 03 August 2012 by Emperor

In the battle for who hates Islam more it seems the slightly less Islamophobic Diane Black has beaten the fanatical Lou Ann Zelenik:

Diane Black easily beats Lou Ann Zelenik in 6th District

U.S. Rep. Diane Black defeated rival Lou Ann Zelenik to win the Republican nomination for the 6th Congressional District in a race that could serve as a bellwether for the relationship between mainstream conservatives and tea party activists across Tennessee and the nation.

Black led Zelenik by a 2-to-1 margin with most precincts reported after a nasty campaign that one national commentator called “the craziest GOP House race of the year.”

“I am so honored to once again say thank you to the voters for giving me the confidence, giving me their confidence, to say I want to send you back to Washington to work for our Tennessee values,” Black told supporters in Hendersonville.

Zelenik conceded the race from her election night rally in Mt. Juliet shortly after 8:30 p.m.

The race was a rematch between two candidates who had fought it out for the Republican nomination two years ago, only for Black to prevail by fewer than 300 votes

Black pulled out to a sizable lead, even before results were reported from her stronghold of Sumner County, which she represented in the state legislature for 12 years until her election in 2010.

Zelenik started the race with a clear handicap. Redistricting removed fast-growing Rutherford County, where Zelenik had once served as party chair, from the 6th District. Those voters were replaced by a handful of rural counties, mainly on the Cumberland Plateau.

The race drew national attention as the depth of the animosity between Zelenik and Black became apparent. A frequent ad by the Black campaign described Zelenik, who has never held public office, as a “career politician” who had moved into the 6th District for the sole purpose of running against Black. The spot featured a moving van with Zelenik’s picture on the side.

Conservative activist Andy Miller led a $200,000 independent expenditure campaign on Zelenik’s behalf that included television spots, radio ads and push polling. Zelenik’s campaign, meanwhile, also said Black had been soft during her term on government spending and repeal of the federal health-care reform law.

Zelenik said repeatedly that Black had voted to fund “Obamacare,” a claim that the fact-checking organization PolitiFact labeled as false.

The bad blood between the two started during the 2010 Republican primary. That race ended in litigation over ads Zelenik’s side aired that accused Black of steering state government contracts to her husband’s drug testing firm, Aegis Sciences.

After that election, Zelenik continued to lay groundwork for another run. With Miller and others, Zelenik co-founded the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, a group dedicated to publicizing what they see as the impending threat of Islamic law.

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“I hate Islam more than you do”: Tennessee Candidates

Posted on 02 August 2012 by Emperor

Andrew Miller chairman of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition is funding Lou Ann Zelenik’s campaign against Diane Black. Zelenik also happens to be president of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition.

If you will recall both Miller and Zelenik hosted Geert Wilders at the Cornerstone Church in Nashville where he spewed hateful anti-Muslim/Islam rants to a cheering crowd.

Miller said at the time,

“What is happening in the Muslim community is wrong, and it won’t go on much longer. We will shine the light of truth on them, you will see a change in their leadership, pretty soon, I am pretty sure, and they know who we are. I don’t care.”

In a case of worse vs. worst, Black and Zelenik are trying to out do themselves in how much they hate “Islam.”:

“I hate Islam more than you do”: Tennessee candidates

Freshman Republican Representative Diane Black is challenged by Lou Ann Zelenik, who lost to Black in a primary to represent the rural district two years ago by less than 300 votes.

The heart of the struggle is over the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, about 30 miles (48 km) south of Nashville, which has been controversial since construction began two years ago.

Zelenik, who vigorously opposed the mosque and warned of potential terrorist connections, said Black was not forceful enough in her opposition.

“I will work to stop the Is lamination of our society, and do everything possible to prevent Sharia law from circumventing our laws and our Constitution,” Zelenik said.

Some states dominated by Republicans have passed laws to prevent Islamic or Sharia law from applying in US court cases.

The United States legal system is founded in the US Constitution.

Black did oppose the mosque in statements issued in 2010.

She said communities have a right to be vigilant in ensuring that Islamic institutions in this country do not aid the “jihadist viewpoint.”

“The mosque was rushed through the local process, and people were mad about it … This isn’t about religion, this is about people staying vigilant,” Black said.

A judge ruled last month that the mosque could be occupied by its congregation in time for the fasting month of Ramadan if it passed an inspection. But the inspection showed that some additional work needed to be done before it could be used.

The argument is not even over a mosque in their own congressional district because the redrawing of election maps after the 2010 census put the facility in another district.

But a wealthy conservative donor, Nashville health care investor Andrew Miller, has weighed in on the side of Zelenik, contributing $105100 to a new group called Citizens 4 Ethics in Government, according to the latest reports the group had submitted to the Federal Election Commission as of July 20.

The group has spent nearly $188000 on media and automated telephone calls with the goal to unseat Black.

Miller is also chairman and executive director of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, a conservative non-profit which lists as the top issue on its website: “Educate citizens on the realities of Sharia and stop the growth of Radical Islam.”

Repeated attempts made by Reuters to contact Miller for comment were unsuccessful. Zelenik’s campaign also did not return numerous phone calls requesting comment.

“No one is more opposed to Sharia law, radical Islam and terrorism than Diane Black, but unlike her opponent, Diane Black respects our Constitution,” her campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Coxe-Baker said.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based Muslim Civil Rights and advocacy group, says people like Zelenik “live in their own bubble of anti-Islam hate.”

“All you can do is rely on the goodwill and the tolerance of the members of the rest of society who don’t hold these extremist, bizarre views and trust in the common sense of the American people and the people of Tennessee,” he said.

The race is one of several Tennessee congressional primaries on Thursday to determine party nominees for the election in November.

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Lou Ann Zelenik Uses Abacus to Figure Out Islam is 15% Religion, 85% Political

Posted on 29 July 2012 by Emperor

OK, so I don’t know how Zelenik came up with these numbers, but she’s sticking to them:

Zelenik: “15% Of Islam Is A Religion, 85% Political.”


NASHVILLE, Tenn.- The question of religion is playing a major role in one of the most heated congressional primary races in the country.

Republican Lou Ann Zelenik is challenging incumbent republican Diane Black in the sixth congressional district. When asked if she believed if Islam was a real religion, Zelenick said she believed it to be mostly political.

“I consider 15 percent of Islam a religion, 85 percent political. It’s a total way of life. The only ones who do not call Islam a religion are the Muslims because it’s not a religion,” said Zelenik.

News Channel 5 Investigative reporter Ben Hall asked Zelenik asked if she felt Islam was a real religion or something else Zelenik was clear.

“I will tell you I don’t agree with everything that they say in the Islamic religion or ideology or whatever you want to call it, but I think it has been established by the Federal government and it’s protected as a religion and that’s what I am going to abide by is the law,” she said.

The entire interview of both candidates, including their take on the negative ads that have been such a big part of this campaign will air on Inside Politics on News Channel 5+ at 7 p.m. on July 27 or at 5 a.m. Sunday, July 29 on News Channel 5.

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Anti-Islamic Activist Dumps $100 K Into Tennessee Primary

Posted on 21 July 2012 by Emperor

Lou Ann Zelenik is a fanatical anti-Muslim candidate, not long ago her organization, The Tennessee Freedom Coalition hosted Geert Wilders at the Cornerstone Mega Church:

Anti-Islamic activist dumps $100 K into Tennessee primary

A new super PAC targeting a Tennessee House primary has raised all its funds from a board member of a local anti-Islamic conservative group who is also the one-time finance chairman of one of the candidates in the race.

Citizens 4 Ethics in Government registered as a super PAC with the Federal Election Commission on July 2. Its first disclosure, filed today, shows that it has raised all of its $105,000 in funds from Andrew Miller, the owner of Nashville-based Healthmark Ventures and a conservative activist who helps lead the anti-Islamic Tennessee Freedom Coalition. The group has spent more than $30,000 so far on the 6th Congressional District primary contest between incumbent Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and tea party activist Lou Ann Zelenik.

Zelenik, who has made opposition to the building of an Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. a major issue in her campaign, was the executive director of the Coalition before leaving to run for congress.

The Coalition lists opposition to the growth of radical Islam and the promotion of “cultural cohesion” among its goals, among other conservative causes. In April 2011 the group hosted Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders as a speaker; Wilders is known across Europe for his anti-immigration and anti-Islamic politics. He has called for the banning of the Quran and called Islam a totalitarian ideology rather than a religion.

OpenSecrets blog, 20 July 2012

Zelenik’s “Where I Stand” statement includes the following:  ”I will work to stop the Islamization of our society, and do everything possible to prevent Sharia Law from circumventing our laws and our Constitution.”

Not that Diane Black’s line on these issues is a whole lot better. Her response to the recent court decision to allow Murfreesboro Muslims to occupy their new centre was to criticise the DOJ for intervening in the case: ”Christians’ rights to freedom of religion are violated frequently and the Obama Justice Department doesn’t come rushing to our aid, but they will meddle in a local zoning matter to promote Islam.”

This didn’t prevent Zelinek from denouncing Black for adopting a pusillanimous attitude towards the Murfreesboro Islamic Center.

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Former SNL Star, Victoria Jackson, Questions Murfreesboro Mosque

Posted on 18 April 2012 by Amago

Victoria Jackson

I hope she’s trying to outdo Andy Kaufmann. This is not the first time Jackson spewed her anti-Muslim views.

Former SNL Star Questions Murfreesboro Mosque

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - She’s best known for her satirical comedy on Saturday Night Live. Twenty years after leaving the hit show, Victoria Jackson is back in the spotlight, but this time it’s for her political views.

She’s now a controversial conservative commentator and she’s in Middle Tennessee taking a critical look at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

Victoria Jackson is best known for her dim-witted characters on Saturday Night live which brought her a lot of laughs, and fame. She now works as a citizen journalist.

“I’m trying to use my fading SNL fame to shine a light on the topic that nobody in the media will talk about,” said Jackson.

That topic is Islam. Jackson came to Middle Tennessee to produce a story on the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro and its new mosque now under construction. The comic-turned- conservative political activist doesn’t mince words about why she thinks this building is rising in the middle of rural Tennessee.

“This is the Bible Belt, and Murfreesboro is the buckle on the bible belt. And it’s a college town. So my feeling is they came here to convert people to Islam,” said Jackson.

Jackson brought her camera to the current Islamic Center offices in Murfreesboro — but no one was available for an interview. No luck either at the construction site just outside town.

Jackson did recently interview Congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik for her story. Zelenik has been an outspoken opponent of the mosque. Jackson claims there’s a fatwa , or Islamic decree ,calling for her death because of her criticisms.

“I tolerate all religions. Except the ones that want to kill me,” said Jackson

Jackson plans to post her story on the conservative web site Patriot Update. 


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Tennessee Congressional Race Gets 100 Percent More Anti-Shariah-y

Posted on 08 April 2012 by Emperor

We may have spoke to soon when we wrote that the Murfreesboro Mosque saga in Tennessee may be coming to an end.

Tennessee Congressional Race Gets 100 Percent More Anti-Shariah-y

By Tim Murphy (Mother Jones)

If you live in Middle Tennessee, get ready for another four months of overheated rhetoric about Islam. On Thursday, tea partier and anti-Shariah activist Lou Ann Zelenik announced that she’s challenging incumbent Rep. Diane Black (R), setting up a rematch of a 2010 GOP primary that focused heavily on the question of whether Muslims in Murfreesboro should be allowed to build a new mosque.

In that campaign, Zelenik lashed herself to the mosque issue, speaking at a march to protest the construction, and accusing Black of being soft on Shariah. As she told Talking Points Memo, “This isn’t a mosque. They’re building an Islamic center to teach Sharia law. That is what we stand in opposition to.” Zelenik feared that a new mosque in Murfreesboro would be a stepping stone to a more sinister end—the encroachment of radical Islam into Middle Tennessee. It wasn’t a winning issue, it turned out, but Zelenik’s argument resonated in the city. Later that year, a handful of residents filed a lawsuit to block the construction of the mosque, arguing that Muslims weren’t protected by the First Amendment because Islam is a totalitarian political system, not a religion (the Department of Justice was forced to file an amicus brief noting that, yes, Islam is a religion).

Although Black took a relatively moderate stance on the mosque when she ran for Congress, promising to respect Tennesseans’ freedom of religion, she has an anti-Islam history, too: as a state Senator, she sponsored Tennessee’s 2010 law designed to ban Islamic law from being enforced in state courts.

The added wrinkle here, which should give the primary an added degree of out-in-the-open animosity, is that until two weeks ago, Zelenik was being sued by Black’s husband. The suit centered on an ad Zelenik ran during the 2010 pointing out that then-state Sen. Black had steered contracts to her husband’s forensic science business. Black and his company, Aegis Sciences, considered this charge defamatory, but the court ruled that Zelenik’s spot was accurate, and in this case the truth was the only defense necessary. So: drama.

One quibble, though: The Murfreesboro News-Journal notes that Zelenik will step down from her job at the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, “a nonprofit 501(c)4 organization that has been instrumental in sounding the alarm over the growing Islamic movement in America and the threat of Sharia Law.” That’s not quite accurate, as there is no real threat from Shariah law in the United States. More accurately, TFC has been instrumental in running around stirring up fears over a phantom menace. This would be a small point, except that Murfreesboro isground-zero for the Islamophobia movement, so it’s something the local newspapers really ought to get right.

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Tennessee Freedom Coalition Hosts, “The Dangers of Islam” Event

Posted on 02 March 2012 by Emperor

I hate to see all these folks being indocrinated into the “Islamization” myth. The misinformation and hate that is being pumped here can only lead to negative results (H/T: JD):

Click here to read more about the Tennessee Freedom Coalition.

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Murfreesboro: Law Enforcement Being Taught that an Islamic Insurgency Underway in the USA

Posted on 16 February 2012 by Emperor

Looks like the Tennessee kookiness is on an upswing, expect the disgraced Eric Allen Bell to support these efforts.

The Tennessee Freedom Coalition, (a group’s whose rampant Islamophobia we have discussed before), is now holding a training seminar for law enforcement led by the Strategic Engagement Group the same group that believes there is an “Islamic insurgency” about to take off in the USA (H/T: JD):

Company Claims Islamic Insurgency Underway in U.S.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn.  (WMOT)  –  More than 100 Tennessee law enforcement officers, including deputies with the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, are being trained this week in Murfreesboro by an organization that believes an Islamic insurgency is underway in the United States.

The training sessions are being held each day through Wednesday at the World Outreach Church on New Salem Highway. The Tennessee Freedom Coalition (TFC) is scheduled to host a one-time seminar beginning this evening at 6:30 p.m. featuring the same training group at the same location.

The TFC and its Director, Lou Ann Zelenik, have been outspoken opponents of plans by the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro to build a new Mosque in Rutherford County.

The Strategic Engagement Group (SEG) is conducting the training. According to the company’s website, its purpose is to defeat efforts to “subjugate the American people.” SEG did not follow up on email requests for an interview and doesn’t list a phone number or physical address on its webpage.

SEG conducted a similar training seminar for the Columbus, Ohio, Police Department in 2010. That seminar reportedly dissolved into a shouting match when a SEG trainer allegedly made unsubstantiated accusations against a state employee who is Muslim.

Columbus Police Department Deputy Chief Jeffrey Blackwell says he was shocked at how quickly the officers in attendance became polarized, with some officers defending the Muslim employee and others siding with the SEG trainer. In a phone interview with WMOT, Blackwell commented,

“I would only caution agencies to be mindful of the content that’s going to be covered and the method with which that material is going to be delivered. The last thing you want in your community, in any community, is for training that is supposed to help agencies to become better equipped to deal with people, actually inflame people and create fences.”

The new mosque currently under construction by the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro is located in an area patrolled by Rutherford County Sheriff’s deputies. The department is also responsible for investigating as-yet unsolved 2010 cases of vandalism at the construction site.

Rutherford County Sheriff Robert F. Arnold declined to be interviewed for this story, but did provide a written statement that reads in part, “We actually need to be on the cutting edge of all terrorist training.”

A spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office tells WMOT News that the seminar will make up more than half of the department’s yearly requirement for ongoing professional training and that SEG is approved by the State of Tennessee to conduct such training.

However, a state spokesperson says that Tennessee approves private organizations like SEG to provide training if that instruction is conducted by a local police department.

Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Director Brian Grisham declined to be interviewed for this story, but a written statement from his department notes that the state takes the local police department “at its word that the training it is sponsoring is credible.”

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Lou Ann Zelenik and her Sharia Conference gets turned down by 20 hotels

Posted on 01 November 2011 by Amago

Cornerstone Church

Action works against Islamophobes!: LoonWatch’s call to Action against Islamophobes.

Update: Geller withdrew from the “Shariah Conference,” (read below) and she also just withdrew from the Tea Party Convention in Florida. She is claiming victim status.


Madison church to host anti-Shariah conference

Written by Scott Broden

MURFREESBORO — Former congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik said Monday she has found a place to hold a freedom conference after getting turned down by 20 hotels.

Cornerstone Church in the Madison community on Nashville’s northeast side agreed to hold the event, “The Constitution or Sharia Conference.” The event will be held at 10 a.m. Nov. 11.

“There was no room in the inn for freedom, but pastor Maury Davis of Cornerstone Church opened his doors for free speech,” said Zelenik, who lost the 2010 Republican primary to U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin.

However, headliner Pamela Geller, who runs the Atlas Shrugs anti-Islam blog, has bowed out because the event is no longer at a secular venue.

“While I have nothing against speaking in a church per se, I refuse to have my message driven from the public square,” she wrote in an email.

Geller and Zelenik referred to Hutton Hotel’s decision last week to cancel booking for the event in Nashville, citing safety concerns.

“It was a poor decision by Hutton Hotel when they changed their story three times from what they initially told me,” Zelenik said. “Our goal is to expose and disclose the differences between Constitutional and Shariah law. Our conference recognizes the freedoms of all Americans, including Muslim women, because they have equal protection under our Constitutional law. I reject Islamic Shariah for any woman.”

Zelenik also criticized Islamic Center of Murfreesboro member Saleh Sbenaty, who described the conference as “hate speech.”

“Hate speech for what?” she said. “Does he hate our Constitution or does he hate Shariah law? I wonder how he would feel in Saudi Arabia or Egypt or Iran with constitutional law competing with Shariah? Anyone who would try to bring in constitutional law in these countries would be imprisoned and/or put to death.”

Sbenaty, who works as a 19-year professor at MTSU in the Engineering Technology Department, said he referred to the gathering as a hate group because he’s concerned with the reputations of the speakers Zelenik has invited.

“I’d like to ask her does she want to associate herself with those who inspired Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 93 people in Norway?” Sbenaty asked. “In his manifesto of more than 1,5,00 pages, he was inspired by the people she invited to this conference. He mentioned Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller. Why would we need these people who are coming here to town to preach hate?”

Events such as these can hurt tourism, Sbenaty added.

“Why would you want to bring in people who would damage the reputation of Nashville and Murfreesboro?” he asked. “It’s ironic that she is damaging our community in the name of freedom.”

Sbenaty said there’s always a small sect in any religious group that’s dangerous and can commit tragic acts in the name of their religion.

“Extremists can interpret any religion they way they want,” said Sbenaty, noting that he grew up in Damascus, Syria, with Christian and Jewish friends before becoming a U.S. citizen after moving to Tennessee in 1982. “This is my country. This is where I want to live. This is a country that is founded on freedom, and it’s founded on equality. It’s not founded on bigotry.”

The Rev. Maury Davis of Cornerstone said he agreed to host the conference because he wants to learn more about Shariah law and its impact on American culture. Earlier this year, the church hosted a speech by Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician who is highly critical of Islam.

He said speakers will not be allowed to promote hatred toward Muslims.

“I am not going to have any hate speech,” Davis said. “And I define hate speech as inciting people to hurt people or mistreat people.”

Tickets to the conference are $20 and can be purchased at


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