A file shot of All Saints Church in Pasadena. (Francine Orr, Los Angeles…)
Despite receiving a slew of hate mail, All Saints Church in Pasadena is moving forward with a conference hosted by the Muslim Public Affairs Council — the first time the organization has conducted a national convention at a Christian church.
All Saints Rev. Ed Bacon described the emails his congregation received as "some of the most vile, mean-spirited emails I've ever read in my life."
"When we scheduled this event, we had absolutely no anticipation that we would have this kind of response," Bacon said, adding that none of the emails made actual threats.
Salam al-Marayati, president of the Los Angeles-based Muslim council, said his organization is working with the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and local authorities to ensure the Dec. 15 event is safe. The gathering is expected to focus on the state of the American Muslim community.
"The hatemongerers have made our convention relevant, so we saved on our marketing budget, so some of the money was transferred to extra security," al-Marayati said, half jokingly. "We are taking extra precautions, but at this point there is no threat to the convention."
Church officials believe the hate mail was prompted by an article posted by the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy. The piece alludes to connections between the council and the Muslim Brotherhood.
"Yet again, the Islamists are taking advantage of naive Christians with a desire to show off their tolerance," Ryan Mauro wrote in the article.
Institute President Mark Tooley said the piece didn't call for people to send hate mail, adding that the Muslim Public Affairs Council hasn't denied any of the article's points and instead offered only a broad response.
"I think it's wrong for people to send nasty emails to anybody," Tooley said. "For the couple of nasty emails they received, to portray themselves as victims is somewhat of an exaggeration."
The tone and candor of the emails is what caught the church's attention, said Susan Russell, senior associate at All Saints Church.
"So dripping with vitriol and the worst possible demonization of people of other faiths," Russell said. "What they offered us was basically a window into the ugly underbelly of Islamophobia."
U.S. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) commended All Saints Church and the Muslim Public Affairs Council for hosting the convention and bridging interfaith understanding.
"I was deeply distressed to learn of the hateful and vitriolic messages that the church has received," Schiff said in a statement. "Yet, these odious emails will only increase our determination to fight bigotry and increase understanding."