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Democratic Socialists of America

Democratic Socialists host anti-fascist 'teach-in' at Austin Park

By Howard B. Owens


As the ReAwaken America Tour's stop at Cornerstone Church in Batavia wore on during its second day on Saturday, members of the Democratic Socialists of America gathered in Austin Park for a "teach-in" about fascism. 

There were about 40 people at the gathering.

The Batavian was present for a talk by Rev. Jennifer Butler, author of the book "Who Stole My Bible?"

Butler said what drew her to Jesus Christ was his radical message for his times, resisting the Roman government and the Pharisees. 

"Who stole my Bible? Christian nationalists stole it," Butler said. "What do we need to do to reclaim Scripture as a handbook for resisting tyranny? Scripture, when you read it the right way, is actually a radical book."

Starting with Constantine, Butler said, people with a lust for power and the power of the state have been distorting the message of Christ to their own ends.

"Ever since then, there's been this tendency, as there is throughout history with all religions, and in all contexts to co-opt religion in order to control people," she said. "It started with Constantine. We saw it during the Crusades. We saw it under Hitler."

She said today there is a global movement with impetus from Putin's Russia to use religion to promote authoritarianism.  

"These global oligarchs and global authoritarians are weaponizing religion and relating to each other globally to enrich themselves and to strengthen their own power," Butler said. "They're kind of like global crime syndicates that are also abusing and using religion to control people."

The strategy employed by authoritarians is to divide and conquer, Butler said. They manipulate people's emotions.

"I think first and foremost, in the people who are getting drawn in, it's fear. Fear gets weaponized. That's why actually, Scripture -- sorry to quote Scripture so much, because I know Christianity really pisses people off -- but the Bible says over and over again, perfect love casts out fear."



Democratic Socialists protest 'fascists' at Cornerstone Church

By Howard B. Owens

Protesters returned Sunday to Bank Street Road in Batavia, across from Cornerstone Church, to protest a planned event for this coming Friday and Saturday that one spokesperson said is giving fascists a platform.

"A lot of people have come together as a really big, again, like a mishmash of different efforts who are all people who want the same thing -- which is for the RAT (ReAwaken America Tour) to not be in Batavia and for places like churches not to support fascism," said Lauren Berger, a Mount Morris resident.

She said people who have been featured speakers at previous ReAwaken America events have supported fascist ideology and they should not be given a venue to spread that ideology.

She said that was the reason she and other members of Democratic Socialists of America opposed the same event being hosted in Rochester. Pressure on the owner of the Armory there is what led to the event being canceled, and it was then booked in Batavia when Pastor Paul Doyle agreed to host the event at his church.

"We had been telling the armory not to allow this type of event, not to give these people a platform for their hateful ideology," Berger said. "And not to elevate this as a valid viewpoint. And this isn't, this isn't, you know, conservative, low taxation. This is, you know, (saying) LGBTQ plus people and their allies should be executed for treason. They are peddling COVID conspiracies and election denials, and myths about George Soros, and just all kinds of things that are not a valid place for discourse in our society. This is not a valid viewpoint. This is not an equal and opposite side."

While Berger expects some sort of opposition event in Batavia during the Cornerstone event, she said she doubts it will take place on Bank Street Road, across from the giant white tent expected to hold 3,000 people. She cited the limited space along Bank Street Road and safety concerns for counter-protestors being in close proximity to people at the event, whom she views as a threat to engage in violence.

"The thing about fascism is, you know, everybody here resisting fascism would be content if the fascist went home, and just didn't do this event and kind of renounced those views," Berger said. "A fascist won't stop until those standing in their way are dead. So the safety risk is pretty profound."

In prior interviews with The Batavian, Paul Doyle, senior pastor of Cornerstone Church, has said the event is to be a Godly one, and not at all what protesters have claimed.

"We are fully behind this event, and resolved on our stance to host the ReAwaken America Tour," Doyle has said. "We see this as a Christian-based assembly addressing the many issues that face American people, offering a biblical perspective."

Tour organizers will be meeting with local law enforcement to discuss "security procedures" either Monday or Tuesday, Doyle said to The Batavian Sunday.

For previous coverage of the ReAwaken America Tour coming to Batavia, click here.

Photos and video by Alecia Kaus / Video News Service. Interview by Alecia Kaus / Video News Service.

News Editor Joanne Beck contributed to this story.






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