The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee representing 18 judicatories

(Milwaukee, WI, 05/13/2019) – The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee notes with concern the use of the Waukesha County Exposition Center this past weekend by a group purporting to be a “Security Conference,” but with a roster of speakers who are known to have repeatedly engaged in virulent hate speech against Muslims as a group.

The IFCGM mourned with the Sikh community after the shooting in Oak Creek in 2012. In the last two years, we have prayed with the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities after the violent events in Pittsburgh, California, Louisiana, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand. We have stood in solidarity with our local communities of faith as America faces renewed waves of white supremacy, Islamophobia and antisemitism. We condemn all forms of speech that judge people on the basis of their race, religion, gender, or any other generalizing factor that ignores the dignity of the individual human being that underlies the solidarity of the human community.

We are concerned that individuals indulging in hate speech have come to consider Waukesha County a friendly venue. While we appreciate the issues that flow from public facilities and free speech, we note that there are limits to which groups are given the implicit support of facility use. We would encourage the Waukesha County government to review its facility use policies to determine whether such use accords with the values of Waukesha County and its voters. If Waukesha County is “Leading the Way,” as its vision statement and logo proclaim, it must determine the direction that leadership is going in a time when minority groups are under increasing threat of persecution and violence.

We furthermore call upon the leadership of Waukesha County to issue statements explicitly affirming the welcome place of American Muslims and people of all minority races, religions, and ethnicities as residents of Waukesha County. Considering the virulence of the hate speech used in the past by the organizers and presenters who contracted to speak inside a county facility this past weekend, this intentional, acknowledgment by our elected leaders of the contributions of American Muslims to the culture, civic life, and economy of Waukesha County is warranted.

Blue Sky Waukesha

(Milwaukee, WI, 05/13/2019) – On May 9th and 10th the Waukesha County Expo Center was the site of a strange “security conference” that was not intended to update law enforcement on the latest techniques and practices, as such conferences usually are, but to spread lies and misinformation about our Muslim neighbors. The gathering had the potential to be dangerous, so much so that Waukesha County Sheriff Eric Severson warned the Expo Center staff that what they were hosting was not their usual type of conference.

We know that the Waukesha County Expo Center is a publicly owned facility and cannot pick and choose customers based on the content of their programs. That doesn’t mean we have to welcome misguided purveyors of discrimination and hate with open arms. Groups like the one who put on this so-called “security conference” should not think that they will find safe haven here for their conspiracy theories and lies. They will not. Many, dare I say the majority, of people in Waukesha County are not subscribers to InfoWars-style nonsense.

We want to thank Mayor Reilly for his thoughtful statement of support and we hope that all people, including our Muslim neighbors, feel welcome in Waukesha County. We do not want Waukesha County to be known as a place that tolerates, much less welcomes, hate and ignorance.

Stewards of Prophetic, Hopeful, Intentional Action (SOPHIA is a coalition of 14 Waukesha county faith communities)

(Milwaukee, WI, 05/13/2019) – This statement is in response to recent events in Waukesha County, specifically the Waukesha County Expo Center and Waukesha County public officials allowing a known anti-Muslim hate group to hold a conference and training event in our community:

As a faith-based, social justice organization, SOPHIA strongly objects to any group that comes into our county and disparages the Muslim community. SOPHIA’s core values seek religious and racial equity for all, in our society and world. We believe in the God-given dignity and infinite worth of each and every person; believing that love, open communication, and sincere attempts at understanding each other triumph over hate and fear.

Our Muslim neighbors are valued members of our community. They have often reached out to support others who have been persecuted. SOPHIA has a history of supporting the Muslim community as well. We stood in solidarity with the Islamic Society of Milwaukee as they planned the building of their Brookfield mosque, and SOPHIA was present as the mosque was dedicated. SOPHIA has also held vigils and public displays against other forms of hatred in our community. SOPHIA believes, and has seen, that when people of many faith traditions stand together for our common values, our county, state and nation are better places for everyone.

Furthermore, SOPHIA believes we are called to hold our government, local officials, and public establishments accountable for creating and upholding policies and decisions that positively affect the greater good. We believe that communities are strongest when difference and diversity are valued as gifts, rather than treated with fear and hatred.

SOPHIA will not stand for the perpetuation of hate in our county, state, and country. We are disappointed and angered that this group was allowed to practice hate toward Muslims in our community. SOPHIA will continue to work for justice, including standing in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters, who are a vital part of building the healthy, thriving community we seek in Waukesha County.

The Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network (BEGIN) representing over 20 faith communities

(Milwaukee, WI, 05/13/2019) – The Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network (BEGIN) is deeply disturbed by the recent conference held at the Waukesha County Expo Center by a recognized hate group. BEGIN, which brings together leaders from Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Unitarian Universalist, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish faith groups in Waukesha County for interfaith dialogue and community-building, deplores the action taken by Waukesha County officials in allowing the facility to be used for the purpose of spreading anti-Muslim propaganda.

As leaders of faith communities in Waukesha County, we do not want our county to become a fertile breeding ground for hate groups. Members of our congregations who contacted the County to raise concerns heard that the County has no written guidelines or policies for facility rentals. County officials defended the decision to rent to the organization whose conference roster featured speakers well-known for anti-Muslim hate speech by citing “freedom of speech.” When asked if they would rent to the Ku Klux Klan, the response was, “I hope they don’t ask us.”

BEGIN asks Waukesha County officials to assure our faith communities that in this day and age when shootings at places of worship have become terrifyingly frequent, including in Brookfield and Oak Creek, that the County will do everything in its power to assure our freedom to worship in safety.