Oklahoma State Rep. John Bennett has become the subject of controversy after making several egregious statements about Muslims and Islam. Now, the state rep. is involved in organizing an event featuring members of the organized Islamophobia movement.
On Oct. 13, Rep. Bennett is co-hosting a (virtual) town hall meeting featuring notorious anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney at Fairview Baptist Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. Clare Lopez, who is employed by Gaffney’s anti-Muslim think-tank Center for Security Policy, is also scheduled to take part along with Oklahoma Pastor Paul Blair of Reclaiming America for Christ, another co-sponsor of the event.
“We plan to continue to educate the public about the very real threat that terrorists present to the U.S.,” Bennett said about the meeting.
However, given Gaffney and Bennett’s past history, the meeting will almost surely manifest itself as a chance to spread anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and vilify Muslims. The meeting appears to be in response to the tragic events last month at a Oklahoma food processing plant involving an alleged assailant who is Muslim.
In a press release last week, Bennett laid out his plans to host an event to find out “Who are these people and why are they doing these terrible things to us?” This rhetoric is worrisome considering Bennett has previously warned his constituents be “wary” of Muslim Americans.
This also is not the first time Bennett has associated with Gaffney and his ilk. Last year, Bennett, via his informal House Counterterrorism Caucus, sponsored a law enforcement training seminar that featured Gaffney, Lopez, and Jerry Boykin, a retired Lt. Gen. who argues the practice of Islam should not be protected under the First Amendment.
Bennett’s Counterterrorism Caucus colleague Rep. Dan Fisher is also co-hosting the event.