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CAIR asks L.F. schools to cancel speaker

LITTLE FALLS — A Muslim advocacy organization has asked the Little Falls District to rescind permission for Monday's scheduled speech by Brigitte Gabriel at the high school.

Gabriel, the founder of ACT! for America, who is described on the group's website as an expert on global Islamic terrorism, is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. Monday at Little Falls Community High School. The meeting is sponsored by the Central Minnesota Tea Party Patriots.

The Minnesota Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) asked the school district to "consider the negative impact of a scheduled speech by an anti-Muslim speaker will have on district students.”

According to the Central Minnesota Tea Party website, Gabriel will speak on the rise of Islamic radicalism. A $5 donation is suggested for admission to the event.

Little Falls School District Superintendent Stephen Jones said Wednesday he reviewed the school district policies that were cited in CAIR’s news release with a representative of the Tea Party group and they “signed off in writing” that the presentation would adhere to them. Jones gave no indication the district would cancel the speech at the school. Little Falls School Board Chairperson Sharon Ballou had referred a reporter to Jones for comment.

CAIR Executive Director Lori Saroya said Wednesday the school district had been made aware of her organization’s objections and it had not received a response from the district. Even though school is not in session the fact that the speech is going to be given at that site, Saroya said, sends a message to students.

In its news release, CAIR Executive Director Lori Saroya said: "As Little Falls High School would not and should not allow a racist or anti-Semitic speaker to use its facilities, we ask that school and district officials apply the same standard to an anti-Muslim speaker."

She added that the speech would violate the district's harassment and violence policy which seeks "to maintain learning and working environment that is free from harassment and violence on the basis of ... religion ..." According to CAIR, the policy specifically states the school district should avoid having an "intimidating, hostile or offensive environment." The CAIR news release asserts Gabriel's speech would violate the district's policy on religion which, according to the organization, states: "The school district shall neither promote no disparage any religious beliefs or nonbeliefs."

CAIR described Gabriel’s organization as a hate group.

Saroya said Wednesday it was reassuring that the sponsoring organization had promised to adhere to school policies her organization cited.

Nancy Judd of the Tea Party group declined to comment on the event and referred a reporter to an email for Guy Rodgers of ACT! for America. Rodgers could not be reached Wednesday.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860