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Amherst County Sheriff's Office nixes GOP plan to host anti-Muslim speaker at agency

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GOP plans to host a speaker at the Amherst County Sheriff’s Office were canceled Monday when the agency became aware the event featured an anti-Islam crusader who has built a reputation on accusing prominent Muslim organizations of plotting jihad against the U.S.

Chris Gaubatz was scheduled to speak Tuesday following the regular monthly meeting of the Amherst County Republican Committee, which is held in the basement of the Sheriff’s Office.

A representative from the Amherst County Sheriff’s Office said he was unaware of the event until contacted about it by The News & Advance on Monday.

Captain John Grieser noted the local GOP chapter is one of several organizations that meet regularly in the basement of the sheriff’s office. He said the county Republican committee, which has met in the building for two years, does not provide an agenda prior to its meetings.

“We haven't typically screened the content, but we're looking at revising that after this incident came up,” Grieser said.

In a follow-up text message, Grieser said the Sheriff’s Office has no control over GOP operations, but can decide how the building is used and did not “want to give the perception to the public that we would allow a particular group to hold a forum that’s contradictory to our mission statement of treating each citizen with respect, equity, and compassion.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations also issued a statement Monday calling for the Sheriff’s Office to put a stop to the event.

After the Sheriff’s Office declined to provide space, Amherst County Republican Committee Chairman Vance Wilkins found a new venue for the GOP event. Now the monthly meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Second Stage Amherst at 194 Second Street in Amherst, with Gaubatz scheduled to speak at 8 p.m.

“We will not be denied our right to peaceably assemble and to discuss whatever we choose, no matter the pressure from the Council on American-Islamist Relations,” Wilkins wrote in an email.

Gaubatz did not respond to a request for an interview.

Gaubatz surged into the public eye in 2009 following his infiltration of the nonprofit CAIR — a Muslim advocacy group — as an intern while posing as a Muslim convert. In the employ of CAIR, Gaubatz copied thousands of documents and secretly recorded employees. His six-month stint with CAIR was later published as a book, alleging the organization supports jihad efforts against the U.S.

He also alleged CAIR was a front for the Arabic political group Muslim Brotherhood, and claimed 80 percent of mosques in the U.S. are under control of Muslim Brotherhood.

Wilkins said he first heard Gaubatz speak at a Lynchburg Tea Party event and invited him to share his insights into the Muslim faith.

“I heard him speak, I didn’t hear anything particularly xenophobic in his speech, [and] I would like for him to tell us what he found out inside the Muslim community,” Wilkins said.

CAIR spokesperson Ibrahaim Hooper said rather than insights, Gaubatz shares conspiracy theories fueled by “anti-Muslim bigotry.”

Hooper denied CAIR has connections to the Muslim Brotherhood or jihad ambitions, as Gaubatz claimed, stressing it is a civil rights organization with a 24-year history of advocating for American Muslims.

Hooper expressed his concern that a mainstream political party was giving Gaubatz a platform and doing so in a law enforcement building.

“We’ve got bigots, all the time, that speak and spew their invective all over the place, but you normally don’t have them hosted by law enforcement authorities or mainstream political parties,” Hooper said. “That’s the troubling part.”

Wilkins said he books speakers as often as he can to talk about current events. He added that meetings regularly draw about 20 people.

Gaubatz was scheduled to speak after Tuesday’s regular meeting.

Events featuring Gaubatz often draw protestors, though Wilkins did not consider that a concern.

According to The Daily Nonpareil — a newspaper in Council Bluffs, Iowa — a speech from Gaubatz in Oakland, Iowa, last summer was met with protests. The local GOP chapter distanced itself from the event sponsored by Omaha-based Global Faith Institute and 88 Tactical Elite Training Organization.

A summer event in South Dakota featuring Gaubatz was met with similar protests.

In addition to his research for the book Muslim Mafia — which was written by his father and a co-author, using documents Gaubatz had taken from CAIR headquarters — Gaubatz also is vice president of Understanding the Threat, a small limited-liability company.

Founded by former FBI agent John Guandolo, Understanding the Threat describes itself online as an organization dedicated to identifying the threat and “training leaders, elected officials, law enforcement, military personnel, and citizens, about the Global Islamic Movement and the jihadi networks in communities around the nation.”

Hooper said CAIR recently filed a complaint with the FBI against Guandolo regarding a tweet sent out that Hooper said he interpreted as a call to bomb the Muslim organizations headquarters.

Like Guandolo, Gaubatz has taken to Twitter to attack Islam in all forms.

“When you understand the threat, you understand that there is no such thing as 'radical islam', just islam. #IslamIsTheProblem,” Gaubatz tweeted July 6, 2017.

In the past, Gaubatz has claimed Muslims have taken over entire sections of Minneapolis.

“You have entire enclaves that are essentially no-go zones, for not only law enforcement, but also citizens,” Gaubatz told WorldNetDaily, a fringe conservative news and opinion website.When informed of Gaubatz statements, Wilkins said Friday it was the first time he had heard the claims.

“What a speaker says does not define the values of the Amherst County Republican Committee,” Wilkins said.

He added he believes Gaubatz has valuable inside knowledge from his time inside CAIR, and he had hoped to hear about the experience inside the organization and his thoughts on Islamic terrorism.

“CAIR welcomes the swift response of the Sheriff’s Office not to lend the appearance of law enforcement support for Gaubatz anti-Muslim agenda,” said Robert McCaw, government affairs director for CAIR who hoped the organization would be unable to find another venue to host Gaubatz.

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