A group of pastors in Alabama says that they are not racist even though only "white Christians" were invited to their three-day conference, which will include a cross burning and be attended by Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members.
Residents in Guin, Alabama became outraged earlier this week after they noticed flyers posted around the town that read, "Annual Pastors Conference All White Christians Invited." The groups Christian Identity Ministries and the Church of God's Chosen told WIAT that they just didn't have the "facilities" to accommodate non-whites.
"We're seldom ever have been invited to black Muslim events and we never have been invited to NAACP events and we never have been invited to join Jewish synagogues events and stuff," Christian Identity Ministries Pastor William J. Collier explained.
"It has nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of racism or hate or anything like that," he added. "And anybody who would brand it as that would be a racist and a hater themselves, you know."
Collier insisted that the "Sacred Christian Cross Lighting Ceremony" to be held on final day of the event symbolized an "opposition to tyranny."
"We are not burning a cross, look at the word is says it says light a cross," Christian Identity Ministries Reverend Mel Lewis told WIAT. "If you light a light in your house do you burn down your house. We often use fire. Our ancient fathers said fire was a cleansing element. Even the Bible says the earth will be purified with fire what purer element can we use as a symbol of our worship."
But the president of the NAACP's Birmingham Metro Chapter could not recall any past cross burning that had not been associated with racism or hate.
"The only context that I'm familiar with is one that is not very positive," Hezekiah Jackson said. "And one that really symbolizes an era that many of us have hoped to put behind us. And that is this whole era of Jim Crow, this whole era of white supremacy, this whole era of discrimination and racial hatred."
"I think it's really hard to clarify what's going on, but it seems to be some vestiges of what we call white supremacy here in Alabama. We just have to be honest about it."
The "Annual Pastors Conference All White Christians Invited" event ends on Friday. It is the fourth year that the whites-only conference has been held in Lamar county.
Watch this video from WIAT, broadcast July 5, 2012.
Watch this video from WBMA, broadcast July 5, 2012.
(h/t: Think Progress)