Nashville hotel blocks Zelenik’s anti-Sharia conference
MURFREESBORO — Lou Ann Zelenik started searching for a new place for “The Constitution or Sharia?: Preserving Freedom Conference” Monday after learning a Nashville hotel canceled its Nov. 11 booking.
“It’s ridiculous that they chose to silence our freedom to speak,” said Zelenik, a Murfreesboro resident who came in second in a close Republican primary in 2010 against U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin. “They canceled it because they got threats. The Islamic extremists won, as far as I’m concerned.”
A company official with oversight of Hutton Hotel contends that Zelenik is wrong.
“This has nothing to do with freedom to speak,” said Steve Eckley, a senior vice president of the management company that runs the Hutton Hotel. “This has everything to do with making sure we are protecting our employees, our guests and our property.
“We were very concerned about protests, and those protests turning ugly. Several of the calls that we received led us to believe there was going to be organized protests,” he said. “We have no issue with the organization whatsoever. But because of two of their very inflammatory speakers, we were concerned about those protests.”
Eckley confirmed that Pamela Geller of Stop Islamization of America was one of them and that her involvement is mentioned as a concern on the Anti-Defamation League’s website, which is dedicated to stopping the defamation of the Jewish people and securing justice and fair treatment to all.
“They protect everyone,” Eckley said.
Islamic Center of Murfreesboro member Saleh Sbenaty said he thinks the hotel did the right thing.
“We as citizens support the First Amendment, whether that be freedom of religion or freedom of speech, but hate speech cannot be called freedom of speech,” said Sbenaty, a 19-year MTSU professor in the Department of Engineering Technology. “The United States does not stand for bigotry or exclusion. The United States is an open country that welcomes people of all faiths and all traditions, including the Muslim tradition.”
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