It didn’t take long for word to spread that Batavia’s Cornerstone Church was hosting the enormous and controversial Reawaken America Tour.
Pastor Paul Doyle spoke to organizers a few days ago after a planned event was cancelled in Rochester. Doyle was asked if Cornerstone could do it as they investigated various options, and he said that it could be an option.
He expects there to be 500 to 1,000 baptisms during the two-day event. It has been set for August 12 and 13 at the church on Bank Street Road.
“As far as the backlash, to be quite honest with you, I really didn't follow what was happening in Rochester. I mean, basically, from a distance. I caught wind that there was some opposition to the event, but I can't say I really followed it,” he said. “And I certainly didn't know the extent of it to the point where they would actually cancel the event at the venue.”
Reawaken America was initially a Health and Freedom event that began during the pandemic. It was renamed the Reawaken America Tour in 2021, and has visited several venues across the country. Led by Clay Clark, the event has featured dozens of speakers, including Roger Stone, General Michael Flynn and Mike Lindell, of the My Pillow fame. It purportedly began as an anti-vaccination and pro-freedom rally, although Doyle sees it as a patriotic event that focuses on God and Jesus Christ. As for claims that white supremacist groups, including the Proud Boys, show up at these events, he believes that’s an assumption about what could happen.
“We have no affiliation with the Proud Boys; I don’t even know who they are. Anybody could show up, the KKK could show up. I feel like it’s being overdramatized. We’re not promoting violence,” he said. “I don’t know why people are so fearful of a narrative. If anyone is disruptive or hostile, they will not be welcome. I sure hope white supremacists don’t come.”
He would like people to not be persuaded by reports of other events and hearsay, and instead go by Cornerstone’s good works. For example, church members took “truckloads of food and clothing” to people affected by the mass shooting at Tops in Buffalo.
“We supported an African American community … bringing truckloads to people that are hurting. It broke our hearts to see what was happening there. We’re not doing a bad thing, we’re doing a good thing. We look and see what the word of God says,” he said.
He can’t read people’s minds and hearts, he said, and won’t necessarily know if someone has ill intent if they attend. The church has seasoned law enforcement professionals to help with security, and he plans to connect with local law enforcement before the tour arrives.
Doyle expects the event to be a “civil, peaceful Godly event.” It will be on private property and the concerns are merely speculation and assumption at this point, he said.
“We’re gonna talk about Jesus Christ, we're gonna talk about salvations. And, to me, it's an upright, Godly event, if somebody wants to paint it something different than that, that's not coming from me.”
Photo of Pastor Paul and Lee Doyle from cornerstone.org.