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ReAwaken America Tour

AG Letitia James defends provocative letter to ReAwaken hosts

By Joanne Beck


In covering a lawsuit filed by organizers of the Batavia-based ReAwaken America Tour against Attorney General Letitia James, The Batavian reached out to James for comment Monday and did not hear back before the story was published.

We wanted to know why she felt it necessary to involve herself — a state official — with a religious/political event; what she was hoping to accomplish by issuing the warning; and how she intends to defend her stance given that the event did not include any visible threats of violence as predicted.

An AG office spokesperson said that "As the top law enforcement officer in the state, it is our job to remind any organization or individual about the laws in our state, especially those that protect New Yorkers against racially motivated violence or harassment.”

“The letter from our office served as a basic reminder of those very laws and to suggest otherwise is incorrect,” the spokesperson said.

The office also included a copy of the letter, which The Batavian already had, and included portions in its published story. The full letter can be read below, and outlines the attorney general’s concerns and the foundation upon which organizers Pastor Paul Doyle and Clay Clark, in collaboration with their attorney, used to file the lawsuit against James for defamation, libel and impinging their First Amendment rights, to boil down the lengthy scope of litigation material.

To sum it up, event organizers sued the attorney general, alleging defamation and a violation of their civil rights. She, in turn, is standing by her letter, suggesting it is her right as the state's “top law enforcement official” to send such letters to private citizens. 

Here is the letter in full, dated August 3, 2022, sent to General Michael Flynn and Clay Clark, care of Cornerstone Church in Batavia:

General Michael Flynn and Clay Clark:

As New York’s top law enforcement officer, I have significant concerns that the ReAwaken America Tour’s upcoming event at the Cornerstone Church in Batavia, New York on August 12 and 13 could spur extremist or racially motivated violence.

These concerns center around the event’s proposed dates, which coincide with the five-year anniversary of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and past extremist statements made by yourselves and the other featured speakers on the tour.

I am especially concerned about featured speakers’ regular allusions to white nationalist ideals connected to the “Great Replacement Theory,” a conspiracy theory that warns of white genocide and efforts to replace native born Americans with immigrants. The theory is frequently linked to violent actions, including the racially motivated mass shooting that killed 10 people at a Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo.

 Especially in light of this racist mass shooting, and other recent episodes of racially motivated violence in New York and throughout the country, the Office of the Attorney General is concerned that such rhetoric could contribute to violent or unlawful conduct at the ReAwaken America Tour’s upcoming event.

The Office of the Attorney General writes to remind you that New York law prohibits racially motivated violence, harassment, or interference with another person in the exercise of their civil rights.

New York Civil Rights Law § 79-n empowers the Office of the Attorney General to investigate acts of violence, intimidation, threats, or harassment directed at people based on a belief or perception regarding an individual’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability, or sexual orientation. In addition to actual damages, any person who violates this statute can be held liable for $5,000 in penalties for each violation.

Additionally, New York Civil Rights Law § 40-c prohibits discriminating against another person in the exercise of their civil rights — including their right to peacefully protest — based on similar protected characteristics.

Finally, New York Executive Law § 63(12) empowers the Office of the Attorney General to take action against any business engaged in significant fraud or illegality — including the violation of New York’s civil rights laws.

The Office of the Attorney General has a duty to protect New Yorkers from extremist and racially motivated violence. We stand ready to investigate any violation of the laws above and, if necessary, to enforce them to the fullest extent available.

You are therefore instructed to take all necessary steps to ensure that the event complies fully with the requirements of New York’s civil rights laws and all other applicable state and federal statutes.

Your cooperation in ensuring a peaceful and law-abiding event will be greatly appreciated.



New York State Attorney General

CC: Cornerstone Church

Photo of NYS Attorney General Letitia James from her website.

ReAwaken organizers, host fight back on what they call 'intimidation,' 'libel,' from AG

By Joanne Beck


Five months after the much-debated and narrowly criticized — mostly by local church groups — ReAwaken Tour hit Batavia, the event still haunts organizers in the form of a letter sent by the state attorney general last August.

After an attempt to obtain a retraction from Letitia James in October, event organizers Clay Clark and Paul Doyle, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Batavia, took legal action and filed a lawsuit against the top law enforcement officer on Jan. 20.

“Mr. Clay Clark and I obtained an attorney and filed a Federal complaint to Attorney General Letitia James in October 2022 giving her an opportunity to make a public retraction of her statements made in the letter sent to us, as they were not founded upon truth or evidence, but rather theoretical discourse, and were issued with ill intent to cause fear, intimidation and harm to Clay Clark, Cornerstone Church and myself,” Doyle told to The Batavian. “Her job is to protect The People of New York, not vilify, entrap, or create false propaganda to inhibit our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.”

He was unable to speak further at the time but has said he will do so at some point. Meanwhile, The Batavian has obtained a copy of the letter and lawsuit, filed solely against James for her August letter pursuant to the New York State Human Rights Law, New York City Human Rights Law, and New York State Civil Rights Law for “negligence, defamation, libel, and discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, and political affiliation.”

Plaintiffs include Paul Doyle, senior pastor at Cornerstone Church, 8020 Bank Street Road, Batavia, and Clay Clark, coordinator and organizer of the Reawaken America Tour, Oklahoma.

“Specifically, plaintiff alleges that the Defendants negligently, wantonly, recklessly, intentionally, and knowingly sought to and did deprive them of their constitutional and civil rights, pursuant to the above-named statutes and causes of action by committing acts to deprive Plaintiffs of rights secured by the Constitution of the United States and the State of New York,” the suit states. “Further, Defendant James negligently, wantonly, recklessly, intentionally, and knowingly published multiple false statements to multiple media outlets to mar the reputations of Pastor Doyle and Clay Clark, to provoke objectionable opinions in the minds of members of the community to expose plaintiffs to hatred, contempt, and aversion.”


The Tour had originally been scheduled for a venue in Rochester last summer, but as controversy and protests grew louder, it was canceled. Doyle then agreed to host the event at his church campus on Bank Street Road, which drew similar protests, fear and claims of violence related to white supremacists. About two weeks before the event occurred, James stepped in and sent a letter that began by introducing herself as “New York’s top law enforcement officer.” It was addressed to General Michael Flynn and Clay Clark, and copied to Cornerstone Church.

“I have significant concerns that the ReAwaken America Tour’s upcoming event at the Cornerstone Church … could spur extremist or racially motivated violence,” James said. “These concerns center around the event’s proposed dates, which coincide with the five-year anniversary of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., and past extremist statements made by yourselves and the other featured speakers on the tour.”

The letter can be considered nothing less than “an attempt to covertly intimidate and threaten the plaintiffs into shutting down the event,” the suit states. James makes numerous statements that are “facially incorrect, libelous, and covertly threatening towards both Plaintiffs. Her actions are politically motivated and the concerns Ms. James relays in her letter are a cloak for her passive threats to prosecute plaintiff Doyle, Clark, and others associated with the event strictly for their political views,” it states.

Her letter was not the only tool for either dissuading the event from happening or expressing strong concern about it. Local church and nonprofit groups formed a coalition to protest, speak out, carry signs and hold a vigil in efforts to lessen the strength of what they perceived to be a dangerous event about to take place. Their concerns overlapped with those of James, including racism, white supremacy, violence, discrimination, and an overall violation of civil rights.

James’ letter continued on to remind the organizers that New York law prohibits “racially motivated violence, harassment, or interference with another person in the exercise of their civil rights,” and that Civil Rights Law 79-n empowers her office to investigate acts of violence, intimidation, threats, or harassment directed at people based on a belief or perception regarding an individual’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious, practice, age, disability, or sexual orientation.

“In addition to actual damages,” she continues, “any person who violates this statute can be held liable for $5,000 in penalties for each violation.”

The lawsuit also alleges that James’ “reckless threats” to prosecute the plaintiffs along with her inferences towards racial discrimination and fraud associated with the church and the event were publicized in numerous media outlets and which have injured Pastor Doyle’s reputation, that of his church, and the reputation of Mr. Clark as well.

“As a result, Pastor Paul and Cornerstone Church now have a smear against their names which has created a suspicious taint on the relationships they have worked diligently to develop,” it states. “Yet, despite its years of sacrifice and service to the community and its youth, Ms. James decided to forego any reasonable inquiry into the church to verify her alleged concerns, as required of her as the top law enforcement officer.”

Item #55 cites the Supreme Court, “that speech critical of the exercise of the State's power lies at the very center of the First Amendment,” and as a result, "a section 1983 claim will lie where the government takes negative action against an individual because of his exercise of rights guaranteed" by the First Amendment.

“The plaintiff in this action has an undeniable right to associate and speak freely in accordance (with) the First Amendment,” it states. “The letter sent by the Defendant was meant to intimidate and harass the Plaintiffs into not exercising these rights through government coercion and veiled threats of investigation and prosecution into Pastor Paul and Cornerstone Church, Clay Clark, and the ReAwaken America Tour.”

The organizers, via the lawsuit, accuse James for taking actions that “constitute a blatant abuse of authority” that’s been granted to her by the state.

The Attorney General's Office did not immediately respond to The Batavian with comment.


Top File Photo: Pastor Mark Burns prays for Attorney General Letitia James after she sent a letter warning organizers about hosting the tour in Batavia; General Michael Flynn offers a message during the two-day event; Pastors Lee and Paul Doyle talk to the crowd under the tent alongside Cornerstone Church in August 2022. Photos by Howard Owens.

ReAwaken bids good night after two-day event

By Joanne Beck


People were still speaking around 6 p.m. under the big tent in front of Cornerstone Church Saturday, as the parking lot looked much more like a mowed hay field than it had the last two days.

Law enforcement officers stood outside of the fenced property and vendors, including a Center Street Smokehouse food truck, departed the event. A lone Genesee County Sheriff’s vehicle sat parked farther down on Bank Street Road, just before the overpass.

For all of the worry and concern expressed beforehand about violence, there apparently was none. As for rhetoric and questionable claims regarding political and health matters, that’s up to one’s own opinion.

Signs stating no guns, no knives were an anomaly not often seen at church-hosted events. The ReAwaken tour seemed well-organized, and determined to stop anyone with a weapon from entering with security checking bags and each person upon entering the event.

Overflow visitors were provided space inside the church to view speakers on a large screen, while most — including special VIPs — found a seat under the big white tent in front of the church.

Days leading up to Friday’s debut of the tour offered whispers of trouble via out-of-town protestors planning a showdown. That never happened, and, in fact, not one protestor paid a visit to the site on Friday, and there were no reports — or sightings by The Batavian — of any on Saturday.

For an event this size, it was obvious that people had the protocol down — except for the schedule being askew — with a clear sound system, visuals on a screen behind speakers, and bios for everyone. Vendors sold many related, and political, items featuring Donald Trump, Michael Flynn, Roger Stone and others. Mario Fratto’s campaign signs were equally prominent, and a tractor-trailer on Saile Drive got a facelift with a Trump 2024 billboard-sized ad facing the road.

It wasn’t so clear what Stone’s message was, given his bemoaning of his ordeal and how he had become homeless, penniless, and without a voice due to a judge’s gag order for him not to talk during his trial. Stone, who was convicted of seven felony charges, including lying under oath to a congressional committee and threatening a witness whose testimony would have exposed those lies, was later pardoned by the former president.

"We lost our home, my car, our savings, our insurance. But most importantly, I lost my ability to speak. I was not entitled to speak for 18 months, on any subject. I had to sit by and watch "CNN," and "MSNBC" and others call me a Russian traitor, called me, a Russian intelligence asset, lie repeatedly about connections between the Russians and the Trump campaign,” Stone said. “And then I made a fateful decision. I was depressed. I was angry. I was scared for my wife. I was demoralized. And it was then that I decided to redeem myself in the blood of Jesus … At that moment, it was like cement blocks were being lifted from my shoulders.”

“Not a month goes by in which the combination of my legal fees, just our basic living expenses, and we do not live a lavish lifestyle, and my wife's uninsured expenses, are not greater than the amount of money I make every month,” he said.

Not so fast. Several news reports, including “Orlando Weekly,”Sun Sentinel,” and “The Daily Mail,” state that Stone moved out of his $1.6 million Florida home and rented it out for $9,500 a month, and purchased a smaller, two-bedroom apartment for $525,000. In July, he and his wife, Nydia reached an agreement with the government to be held responsible for more than $2 million in unpaid income taxes, penalties, and interest, subject to potential additional interest as well as subtractions for previously processed payments or credits. It also proposes a judgment against Roger Stone alone for about $453,000 in taxes, penalties, and interest.

Stone  -- who has become as famous for his back tattoo of Richard Nixon as for his self-proclaimed reputation as a 'dirty trickster' -- talked about how he worked for “two of the greatest Americans in the 20th Century, he said: Richard Nixon and Bob Dole. But they don’t match the former president, he said.

“They were very, very tough guys, but neither one of them was tougher than Donald Trump,” Stone said. “Because of his toughness, he was a great president, and it’s just because of his toughness that he will be a great president again.”

Within some banter with tour host Clay Clark, Stone was asked how much his legal costs were. Are they $1,500? Clark asked. Nope. Those expenses are $35,000 a month, Stone said. After he spoke, there was an opportunity for folks to see him, buy his book and get it autographed, and make a donation, should they feel the urge to do so.

Top Photo: Roger Stone gives the famous victory sign -- a Nixon favorite -- as he ends his talk this weekend at the ReAwaken America Tour in Batavia. Photo by Howard Owens.

ReAwaken tour aptly named for what is happening in America, visitor says

By Joanne Beck


It was a dog that brought Sharon Opdyke to a deeper faith in God and healers, she says.

Quite literally, in fact. Opdyke was visiting from Maryland, and she shared her story with The Batavian while getting a snack during the ReAwaken America tour at Cornerstone Church.

It was in May at a Tour in South Carolina. Opdyke was watching a friend’s dog and they were in the water at a beach while baptisms were going on nearby. She thinks perhaps a girl was having a spiritual awakening, and the dog sensed the commotion. The dog nearly dragged Opdyke to the water where the girl was, and comforted her with gentle nudges.

"I have never in my life seen anything like this. The dog pulled me up from the water up to where this girl was and the girl had collapsed. I don't know if (the healer) cast the demon from her. Something happened. The girl lost consciousness. And she collapsed actually into my friend's arms. She held her by the head,” Opdyke said. “And (Tour speaker) Julie Green didn't let go of this young girl and was just praying over her, and the dog, through the crowd of people, at least 300 people, made its way up to this young girl … And the dog curled right up beside the young lady.”

Witnessing what she believes was a healing was “so amazing” and something Opdyke has never experienced before, she said. She was baptized there, and her passion for God — and all that the ReAwaken America movement stands for — have increased from that point on. She also attended the tour event at Virginia Beach, and in Batavia on Friday.

“And a lot of it was General Flynn. He was our inspiration,” she said, speaking also for her husband. “And then we knew some of the other speakers that were going to be there, including Kash Patel. I think Eric, Eric Trump was there. And a lot of the pastors and then some of the prophets like Amanda Grace, Pastor Dave Scarlet, Julie Green was there ... and then I also wanted to get baptized on the beach. And that was just fantastic.

“So I ended up meeting someone on the beach in South Carolina, and she lives near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, so not too far from where we are. And I actually work at a dog shelter, and they're an animal shelter. So we kind of coordinated because of that, because she also needs a dog sitter. She's not far from us. So her and I agreed to go to Virginia Beach. And we actually only went to Virginia Beach for the beach ceremony. We did not go to hear the speakers. That was phenomenal.”

She rattled off many speakers by name and some of what they spoke about at her first event in South Carolina. Many of them were also featured at the Batavia event. They shared personal and professional stories and even included some humor, she said. (David) Nino Rodriguez had everybody in hysterics, she said, “because you have to sometimes just laugh at the people that are still asleep about what’s going on in the world.”

The Batavian asked her what she meant by that.

“Just everything, the amount of evil I mean, the amount of evil that's been going on … we've been poisoned our whole life. Everything's been a lie. You know, and a lot of people are just waking up to it. Why are some people more awake than others and some people now kind of coming out of their coma that they've been in for years,” she said. “But, you know (pointing toward the sky) that's sunshine, and I mean that, you know, we’ve got to focus on the light. It's been dark all these years, everything's, we're, moving into a beautiful world. But we have to get through the ugliness. We still have a bit of ugliness and we need to wake people up.”

She cautioned about what she has learned: you can’t merely tell people. You have to show them what’s going on, she said. They have to “see this amount of evil.”

“People who think that Biden is really the president. Come on. Yeah, this is a sham. That's a joke,” she said. “Like I said, I had never seen anyone healed in my life. And when I saw that, that kind of led me even more to watch people like (author/teacher/prophetic speaker) Robin Bullock. And just some of the other prophets. I mean, I've always watched (Tour speaker) Amanda Grace.

“You know, if you're gonna sit back and just hide in your house, well, you know, there's casualties of war, and they're the casualties of war. We're at war,” she said. “It's just amazing the amount of people that (the tour is) bringing together who are like-minded.”

Born into a Republican family, she doesn’t really believe in party politics, she said. She is highly involved in her community, is a chief Republican judge, works with her local police and fire departments, and all the while sensing that something was wrong, she said. The primaries were “a joke,” and people can’t vote as easily anymore, she believes, including her local precinct not being set up properly for people with disabilities.

The name of the tour was accurately coined, she said, because that’s what is gradually happening.

“I think we're waking up America, we are waking up,” she said. “We are the majority, you know, so when people say, as they continue to see the circus that's going on in D.C., things are only gonna get worse, but they have to get worse to wake folks up.”

Photo: Sharon Opdyke of Maryland, who drove with a friend to Batavia for the ReAwaken tour, displays the T-shirt she bought for her husband. Photo by Joanne Beck.

Flynn rouses crowd to 'not take it any more'

By Joanne Beck


It got loud Friday evening when Twisted Sister filled the tent — with its iconic “We’re Not Gonna Take it Anymore” — as an intro to the leader of the ReAwaken America Tour at Cornerstone Church.

Not quite a packed house by the evening, the audience rose to its feet clapping and singing along as Michael Flynn took to the stage.

A few minutes later, the music died down and Flynn reiterated its meaning.

“When something happens to you, you say you’re not gonna take it anymore,” said Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and was later pardoned by the former president. “Here's what I want people to understand about these types of events, and what we do here on this ReAwaken America tour is to really get into the communities and go to places where people would, you know, we’re going out to California a couple of times we went to Oregon, we're going to go back out to the West Coast, up into the Washington State, Idaho area … we're here because we want people to know that we're not giving up on you, right, we're not giving up on this region.”

Applause and standing ovations were sprinkled into his speech. Most attendees had been there all day and planned to return for a full day of speakers on Saturday as well. Flynn said that there were to be baptisms a bit later, and that was going to be “a powerful thing.”

“I know the way that our country is segmented right now,” he said. “There's so much going on. But what we have to understand is that those of us guys like me, or people like me, we're going to come in, and we're going to touch you. And we're going to remind you, we're going to teach you, and we're going to say things to you. But it's really up to you. Those of you that were here this morning heard me say we don't have all the answers. I do not have all the answers and we're gonna make mistakes as we go along this path. And is this an awakening in the biblical sense? Is this a spiritual awakening? You bet it is.”

“I mean, there's a spiritual war and there is a political war. And they are going on, they're going on in this country right now. You know, God didn't choose America, God chose Israel. America chose God,” he said.

He encouraged folks to reawaken themselves and figure out “what it is that we want as Americans.” He knows what he wants.

“I want freedom. I want my safety. I want my security. I want to be left alone. I want to be able to do the things that I want to be able to do," he said. "I served this country for nearly three and a half decades. I've absolutely seen the worst in corruption, the worst. I've seen the worst of humanity, absolute worst of humanity. I have witnessed the sacrifice of young men, principally young men, but young men and women. Great, great sacrifice.”

He spoke of how those young men and women sign on the dotted line to join the military, wanting to do something with their lives. What most of them — not even their parents — know, he said, is that they are signing up to give their “very life to this country.” And he encouraged audience members to do their part as well.

“You have to decide what it is that you are going to do. And you’ve got to decide to do something,” he said. “What we're trying to do is, we're trying to convince you to decide that your life is going to take a different path. That's what we're trying to get you to do. We have 3,000 people in here today. All I want is one person to make the decision, 'I'm going to go and I'm going to crash through life.' I've got my toes over the edge of this stage right now. Purposely. And the message is, this is where our nation is; we are at the edge … I want your attitude to change. That's part of what we're trying to do here. Change about what you believe, how you believe, or how strong is your faith; maybe that's the attitude adjustment that you have.”

He capped off his 15-minute talk by circling back to the baptisms and instructing to “put Jesus Christ first in your life.”

“I hope this event will be life-changing for you,” he said.

Michael Flynn speaks during the tour at Cornerstone Church Friday evening in Batavia.  Photo by Howard Owens.

Batavia pastor talks of revival and broaching 'politics' as a necessity

By Joanne Beck


When first asked about why he was hosting the ReAwaken America Tour, Pastor Paul Doyle put it simply that protests about the event’s presence in Batavia was being overblown and that he wanted to host it at Cornerstone Church.

“I think it’s a patriotic, Godly event with reputable people that love the Lord,” Doyle said previously to The Batavian. “This isn’t just a secular event. These are Godly men and women … there’s going to be prayer, repentance, and because of that, the baptisms.”

Baptisms were, in fact, on the event schedule for Friday and again on Saturday evening. When he was bombarded with reporters’ questions after deciding to host the Tour, Doyle maintained then that “we’re gonna talk about Jesus Christ,” and didn’t feel there was any legal issue with a nonprofit church hosting a political event.

During his talk on Friday, the pastor’s voice gradually escalated to one of unbreakable conviction that he will charge ahead at full speed along with other pastors of the same mindset. Does talking about COVID, and vaccinations, critical race theory and other hot button topics make it political talk? Many colleagues aren’t bothered by going there, he said, and neither is he.

“I don't worry about offending Democrats for not worrying about talking about the issues that the church has to talk about. The Bible says in Psalms 119, it says 'the instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.' That tells me if you want revival, you’ve got to pull up the instructions of the Lord again. They're good and the laws of God are good,” he said to a crowd that had thinned out from earlier in the day. “The Psalmist said, 'Lord, I love your laws because they're good.' And we have generations coming up that haven't even heard them before. Because the church is too afraid. We've been too intimidated. Even the Attorney General of New York is trying to bully us for not being quiet. And I'm just not gonna have any of that right now. I’m going to talk about whatever I want from the pulpit.”

He introduced his wife Lee, who is from Mississippi, and said that they were like the North and South coming together. He compared that to what is happening right now in the country.

“And there was a new battle. It's not a battle of North and South. It's a battle of good and evil. And I'm just so thankful that there's people that are standing up and wanting to have a voice once again in our country,” he said.

Doyle emphasized that he and his church have reached out to all races, and want the African-American community to stop following the narrative that they’re victims. 

“They’ve been victims too long,” he said.

He’d also like to reach the LGBTQ community, encouraging listeners to ask themselves “what things have I been conditioned to think?” and wants people to rethink attending churches “where the blind are leading the blind.”

“I’m not interested in a mega church,” he said. “I’m interested in a mega movement."

When he first became aware of Mario Marillo, a motivational speaker who puts on large tent meetings across the country, Doyle admired Marillo for an event in Bakersfield, Calif. right in the center of a primarily Democratic state during pandemic shutdowns. He asked other church leaders if they were interested in a revival featuring Marillo, and the larger ones were not, claiming he was too political.

“He was preaching a message not only about the gospel, but he was calling out leftist agenda policies of (California Governor) Gavin Newsom that have made people miserable with, so he was preaching right in a blue state and a blue city, probably with blue constituents,” Doyle said. He was not afraid. And they came running to the altar. I mean, hundreds of them. And I saw healings.”

Fact Check: In the 2020 presidential election, 53.88 percent of the voters in Kern County (Bakersfield) cast ballots for Donald Trump. Kevin McCarthy, Trump supporter and House Minority Leader, won re-election in Bakersfield with 64 percent of the vote.  Bakersfield is red, like all of the San Joaquin Valley, not blue.

God told Marillo to bring his show to Batavia, and Cornerstone hosted him last fall. They expected 400 to 500 people at best, and instead had 4,000 to 5,000, Doyle said.

“I’m sure you know, we were praying for a revival. I told the Lord, ‘Lord, I don't care where people come from, I don't care what they've done. I don't care what color they are. We’ve gotta see hungry people that are hungry for you.’ I just believe he's answered the prayer,” Doyle said. “And so he came out here, and he had those meetings. And it just ignited a fire in me personally. And it made me start preaching much more boldly from the pulpit.”

As for things that are “too political” Doyle said that it dawned on him that meant “things that are affecting people in our churches.”

“But since when did it leave the church and go to the political arena, we’ve got to pick it out of the political realm, and put it back in the church,” he said. “So that's what we've been doing. I don't know how many news outlets have interviewed me … And they want to know what I think about stuff. And I noticed they asked all these really loaded questions, or, how do you feel about a church hosting a political event, you know, you’re a 501 (C)3. And I said, ‘You think I'm doing this because of money? You think that intimidates me? I'm like, I'm gonna do it. We've got to have a move of God in this country.”

Further Reading: Opinion: Cornerstone Church is not risking its tax-exempt status by hosting the ReAwaken America Tour


Top photo: Pastors Paul and his wife Lee Doyle on stage Friday during the first day of the ReAwaken America Tour at Cornerstone Church in Batavia. Photos by Howard Owens.

As thousands gather for ReAwaken event, pastors across town speak out against Christian Nationalism

By Howard B. Owens


Christian Nationalism is a threat to freedom and the American way of life, a group of pastors told a small gathering in a parking lot behind the First Baptist Church in Batavia this morning, while across town about 3,000 people were gathered at Cornerstone Church for the ReAwaken America Tour.

Among the speakers at First Presbyterian was Rev. Nathan Empsall, an Episcopal minister and director of Faithful America, an online organization that Empsall said puts its faith in action for social justice and love.

"Christian Nationalism, is defined by researchers and academics as a cultural framework and a political ideology, a political world worldview, not a religion," Empsall said. "Christian Nationalism, is the merging of the national American identity with a religious identity, making them one in the same, saying you aren't a real true American unless you're a conservative Christian. The hallmark phrase of Christian Nationalism is that America is a Christian nation. That's not true, of course. We are a pluralistic nation."

Empsall said Christian Nationalism is a threat to freedom in America.

"The goal of Christian Nationalism is not to follow Jesus," Empsall said. "The goal of Christian Nationalism is to seize power, political power, at any cost, no matter who you have to hurt along the way. No matter how many rights you have to take away from other groups, no matter how many elections you may have to try and overturn despite the will of the voters. It's typical of authoritarian movements in this regard."

He tied many of the speakers at the Tour event to the Jan. 6 insurrection, when Donald Trump supporters stormed the capital to try and overturn the presidential election results. 

He suggested that while the ReAwaken America Tour may not be explicitly violent, it does builds the framework for future political violence.

"When we talk about the threat of violence, we're not saying ReAwaken America is a bar and at the end it's gonna have a drunken brawl in the parking lot," he said. "You might not see violence today. What we are worried about is another January 6 happening, but perhaps not in the nation's Capitol, perhaps in every town or local state capitals when elections don't go the Christian nationalist way next time.

"When you raise the stakes as high as they come and demonize your opponents in God's name, you don't have to tell people to commit violence," he added. "They connect the dots."

That said, he is ready to embrace Mike Flynn and Roger Stone, he said, two Trump allies and former advisors speaking at the Tour event, as brothers in Christ.

"Now look, if Mike Flynn and Roger Stone, and the pastors who are with them today, tell me that they are Christians, I believe them," Empsall said. "I don't know their relationship with God. I don't know their heart. I do not doubt them. But I do know that their actions and their words are not Christian actions. They are not Christian words.

"So this morning," he added, "as we hear all the lies from Qanon 2.0 about public health and about democracy -- we ask them to know the truth for the truth shall set you free. We say to Clay Clark and Mike Flynn, 'brothers, don't bear false witness. Come home like the prodigal son.' We follow the Prince of Peace. We love our neighbors. We don't call them Team Satan because they don't share our politics or because they share a different approach to our faith or to faith itself."


Rev. Roula Alkhouri, the pastor of Batavia First Presbyterian Church, hosted the event.

"Our hearts are broken," she said. "Because of the damage this tour, this ReAwaken America Tour, has already caused around our country, using the cover of religion to sow division and hate. I have experienced this kind of hate personally since I started speaking up and saying that we shouldn't have this here, this kind of language and this kind of hate-inciting event. I've received a lot of hate for this."



Pastor Mark Burns, at ReAwaken America Tour, leads prayer for NYS attorney general

By Howard B. Owens


Pastor Mark Burns prayed for New York's attorney general, Letitia James, and her family, during his appearance at the ReAwaken America Tour at Cornerstone Church in Batavia on Friday.

James earlier this week reportedly sent a letter to Pastor Paul Doyle, telling him that she was concerned the event could lead to racial violence.

Burns, an evangelist and failed congressional candidate who has reportedly appeared on a right-wing TV show and said parents and teachers of LGTBQ children should be executed, told the mostly white audience that all patriots, regardless of race, were welcome into the movement.

As of early this afternoon, no protestors had been seen on Bank Street Road.  The lone deputy parked in a driveway in the area said he had not seen any protestors.  There was no other additional local law enforcement at the location during the times The Batavian was at the church or in the area.  People at the event have generally been friendly, from what we've observed, toward members of the media. The staff has been friendly and helpful though the event seems disorganized at times and speakers have not appeared on schedule.  There is a significant contingent of private security at the event and signs at the entrance noting that guns and knives are prohibited.

The Batavian will provide additional coverage of events related to the tour, both at the church and away from it, throughout the weekend.



Gene Ho, President Donald Trump's campaign photographer, sharing stories about working with Trump.



Travelers from near and far flock to locally controversial event

By Joanne Beck


Clifford and Cecilia Miller were anxious to attend the ReAwaken America Tour this morning, arriving around 5:30 a.m. at Cornerstone Church in the town of Batavia.

They made the nearly three-hour trek from Chemung County to partake in the two-day event with two others who rode with them. By 11:45 a.m., they knew the trip was well worth it, they said. The couple watched a convoy of vehicles displaying U.S. flags, sat under the large white tent listening to speakers that included Michael Flynn, and embraced fellow attendees, Cecilia said.

“Just being together here with like-minded people, meaning believers in Christ, and believing in the restoration of our country,” she said. “I’ve always been brought up in the church in one shape or form, so it gave me a foundation of the Lord. And then as I grew, I was like, there’s got to be more than this, God, you know. And so now I'm completely born again, as they say, and I'm into his word. To me, his word is our guide, that we should stand by and go by, and when we've gotten away from that, we need to bring it back.”

The Millers learned of Cornerstone when they came to see Mario Marillo speak during tent meetings last October at the Bank Street Road church. They kept in touch and then found out about the tour coming this week.

Aptly dressed in a red, white and blue ReAwaken T-shirt and Trump baseball cap on Clifford, and a John 3:16 cap for his wife, the couple was looking forward to the remainder of the day and all day tomorrow. They booked a hotel in Batavia, where other attendees were also staying, they said. Visitors came from  out of state, including New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland, and out of the country from Canada.

The Millers weren't alone in the patriotic apparel, as many of the 3,000-plus crowd sported all things red, white and blue, from dresses, scarves, and hats to vests, shirts, sneakers, and even a little something for their canine companions.

The original line-up of speakers changed at some point, and Flynn had spoken before his scheduled time. He is also scheduled to speak this evening, and The Batavian plans to cover that. Earlier guests included Gene Ho, the former president’s campaign photographer; Dr. Jana Schmidt, who was not on the original schedule; Kash Patel, former chief of staff to the acting U.S. secretary of defense under former President Trump; and Dr. Bryan Ardis, an entrepreneur, chiropractor, acupuncturist and nutritionist.

Much of the discourse was about COVID-19 protocols and vaccines, with claims about the vaccine’s safety; claims of how the government and "fake news media" kept certain political happenings from being investigated (Hillary Clinton, “Russiagate”) and therefore didn’t make “the Left” more accountable for its actions; and claims of how the former president took action that would have prevented the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Fact Check: According to the official timeline of Jan. 6 and several other news outlet investigations, Trump did not authorize National Guard troops until hours after the insurrection began.

Fact Check: The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines teach the immune system to recognize and fight the coronavirus, greatly reducing the likelihood of severe disease if a person is infected. There is no evidence the vaccines impair immunity, according to SciCheck’s COVID-19 Vaccination Project.

Primary evidence that was used by a well-known Fox News anchor regarding the vaccines harming the immune system “is a much-criticized Food and Chemical Toxicology paper written by several individuals known for being opposed to vaccination or for spreading health misinformation."

“Lead author Stephanie Seneff is a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has falsely claimed that vaccines cause autism and has pushed a theory linking the herbicide glyphosate to COVID-19, among other unfounded scientific views. Senior author Dr. Peter McCullough is an internist who has repeatedly spread misinformation about COVID-19 treatments and the vaccines. Another author, Greg Nigh, practices naturopathy, a form of alternative medicine that has often embraced pseudoscientific methods,” SciCheck states. 

“When the paper was first published in April, numerous critics condemned it, with some calling for it to be retracted. (That effort was denied. Notably, the paper appeared in the journal after the editor-in-chief put a call out for papers “on potential toxic effects of COVID-19 vaccines.”)

“The paper, which does not present any original research, is a review coupled with an analysis of data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, the United States’ early warning system to detect possible safety problems with vaccines. VAERS reports can be submitted by anyone, are not vetted for accuracy, nor do they mean that a reported symptom was necessarily caused by the vaccine; the data have often been mined to incorrectly claim vaccines are dangerous” it states. SciCheck is a branch of the nonpartisan Click here for article 


Schmidt reviewed several natural remedies that can keep one’s immune system healthy and prevent illness, such as taking in sunshine, cayenne pepper, honey and cooked mushrooms, plus turning to prayer and community, all of which have been touted in health-related newspaper, magazine, online, and television reports.

She also discouraged wifi exposure, stating that cell phones kept in men’s pockets decreases sperm count by 75 percent — provoking a long  “oooooh” from the audience — that dirt is more beneficial as an anti-depressant than Prozac, and those COVID vaccines should be avoided. (See Fact Check above.)

“Does it make any sense at all to (take in the ingredients from the vaccine), as bad these shots are, and we know they’re bad,” she said, suggesting instead to use near infrared therapy. “Remember that these shots are evil.”

Fact Check: According to Health University of  Utah Research published in the journal "Environment International," analyzed data from 10 previous studies suggested that sperm’s mobility, or its ability to move normally toward an egg to fertilize it, appears to fall by an average of 8 percent when a man is exposed to electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones.

Fact Check: Red light therapy is a treatment that may help skin, muscle tissue, and other parts of your body heal, according to It exposes you to low levels of red or near-infrared light. Infrared light is a type of energy your eyes can’t see, but your body can feel as heat. Red light is similar to infrared, but you can see it.

Fact Check: According to an article in “Forbes” magazine, “further research on gardening found it improved life satisfaction and mood. Digging in the dirt really does lift your spirits. The digging stirs up microbes in the soil. Inhaling these microbes can stimulate serotonin production, which can make you feel relaxed and happier.” “The Atlantic” also states that “M. vaccae, a living creature that resides in your backyard compost pile, acts like a mind-altering drug once it enters the human body, functioning like antidepressant pills to boost your mood.”

Patel teased that he would share later about the most recent incident involving an FBI raid of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida. He claimed that Trump had authorized the National Guard to be on standby before the Jan. 6 insurrection, and that during a phone call that Patel was on, Pelosi was more concerned about when food service would be restored than about the violence at the Capitol. No evidence was found online to substantiate or refute that claim.

As for Flynn’s charges before being pardoned by the former president, Patel called them “bogus” and claimed “we actually found documentation” proving his innocence.

“And that man is still standing with us today because he believe in the fate of this country,” Patel said.

Fact Check: (National Public Radio) states that "Flynn admitted to lying to the FBI about conversations he had had with Russia's then-ambassador to the United States as he and the rest of President-elect Donald Trump's camp waited in the wings early in 2017."

"My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the special counsel's office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions," Flynn said in late 2017 at the time of his plea, according to the news site.

Patel joked that he could keep speaking, but had to get out to his booth to sell more books. Several vendors were strewn about outside and many more inside of the church, selling ReAwaken, Trump and related items of clothing, jewelry, keepsakes, books and more.

“This isn’t a Trump rally, but it’s close,” he said, with large screens in the background displaying logos and information related to each speaker.

The Millers were glad to have heard the information.

“We were learning so much deeper stuff,” Clifford said. “So that’s good for us, because we don’t really watch local news. We just don’t know what’s happening. I can’t believe what they say.”

They watch Flashpoint and Newsmax a few times a week, they said. Warm and affable, the couple spoke more about the Christian element than particular subject matters. Clifford was nearly 51 before he became a Christian he said, after spending much time “off in my own world.”

“I was seeking something different, and Jesus was my answer,” he said. “And, I'm telling you, I would have changed nothing else for it. God has brought me (to salvation).”

As smoke billowed out of nearby grills, people continued to mill around, shopping for memorabilia, catching a quick bite out in the sunshine or sitting under the tent as new speakers took to the stage every 15 minutes. As of noon, there were no protestors or visible threats of violence on site, and a counter-event was set for 11:30 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church.

The schedule runs to 7:15 p.m., when baptisms are to take place, and resumes again at 7:30 a.m. Saturday.



Clifford and Cecilia Miller of Corning traveled to the ReAwaken America Tour to be with like-minded Christians, they said, and believe that people need to get back to God; Jana Schmidt talks about natural remedies during Friday's event at Cornerstone Church; Visitors snap a photo with a traveling bus named after its owner, attorney Scott McKay, whose biography defines him as "the patriot street fighter."  Signs were placed at event entrances to provide directions and a reminder that "no guns, no knives" were allowed in. Photos by Joanne Beck.

Photos: ReAwaken America Tour getting underway at Cornerstone Church in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens


The ReAwaken America Tour has arrived in Batavia.

Among the opening events this morning was a truckers' convoy on Bank Street Road past Cornerstone Church, where the event is being held.

Pastor Paul Doyle, who agreed to host the event after it was canceled at a venue in Rochester, has denied that the tour promotes political extremism.  Critics say event speakers peddle conspiracy theories and racism and that the rhetoric can lead to violence, such as the racially-motivated mass murder at a supermarket in Buffalo in May.

Today's speakers include retired General Michael Flynn, pardoned by President Donald Trump after being convicted of lying to the FBI during investigations into his dealings with foreign nations.  Flynn is scheduled to speak in the morning on "Why now is the time to act without fear and hesitation to save this God-given republic."

Other speakers include Kash Patel on "what is actually going on in America," Doctor Bryan Ardis, on COVID-19 protocols involving remdesivir and midazolam, Christie Hutcherson on why we must protect our borders, Julia Flynn, on a "practical plan to save America," Lance Wallnau, on God's "chaos code," Mel K on the "great reset," Dr. Rashid Buttar on the "COVID-19 chaos," Jim Meehan on fighting back against "medical corruption."

Eric Trump is speaking in the afternoon on "why the Trump family has committed their time, talent and treasure to help save America."

In the early evening, Roger Stone, also pardoned by Trump after his conviction on charges of obstruction, making false statements, and witness tampering, will speak about how Jesus can save America.

As things were getting underway this morning, a number of vendors were already in place offering books, t-shirts, hats, jewelry, paintings, and other wares to the attendees (photos below).

The Batavian will have coverage throughout the weekend of the event at Cornerstone as well as counter-events at other locations in Batavia.














The stage in the main event tent ready for guests and speakers.

Local pastors to gather in Batavia on Friday to speak out against ReAwaken America Tour

By Press Release


Press release:

Standing in front of a Faithful America mobile billboard calling on Christian nationalist speakers at an event headlined by disgraced General Michael Flynn to “stop twisting our faith to attack democracy,” a group of local faith leaders and national clergy will speak at a press event and answer questions at 11:30 a.m. ET on Friday, August 12. 

The faith leaders will gather at First Baptist Church (306 E. Main Street, Batavia, New York) as a part of their ongoing effort to warn their communities and congregations of the dangers posed by the anti-democracy Christian nationalism, potential political violence, and disinformation on display at the upcoming stop of the ReAwaken America Tour (RAT) hosted by Flynn, Eric Trump, Clay Clark, and other notable far-right figures who helped to inspire the January 6, 2021 insurrection. The tour, which features stops across the country, arrives Friday at Cornerstone Church in Batavia for a two-day event. Flynn is expected to speak Friday morning following a worship time led by Sean Feucht, who has used members of the Proud Boys for his personal security.

Religious leaders speaking at Centennial Park in opposition to RAT will include both local and national leaders: 

  • The Rev. Dr. Roula Alkhouri, Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • The Rev. Dr. Shiela Campbell McCullough, chaplain, Batavia resident and representative of the New York State Council of Churches
  • The Rev. Dr. William Wilkinson, teaching elder and pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Medina
  • Sareer Fazili, president of Pittsford Youth Services, past president of the Islamic Center of Rochester, and member of the Barakah Muslim Charity Board of Trustees
  • The Rev. Nathan Empsall, executive director, Faithful America
  • Pastor Doug Pagitt, executive director and co-chair, Vote Common Good
  • The Rev. Jennifer Butler, founder in residence, Faith in Public Life

The tour stop in Batavia comes after organizers of the anti-democracy tour had to scramble to find a new venue following the cancelation of its originally planned stop in Rochester.

"Many might be unaware of the type of negative stereotypes and radicalization that are being brewed by the ReAwaken America Tour. In a time already full of division, this has the potential for a significant negative impact on our community’s ability to talk with one another,” said the Rev. Laurel Nelson, speaking on behalf of the Racial Justice Working Group of the Presbytery of Genesee Valley. “In fact, those who have spoken out against the tour have already been subject to vitriol and threats. Although few of the tour’s speakers expose themselves to prosecution by explicitly calling for violence, they allow their audience to connect the dots by downplaying past political violence committed in God's name, associating themselves with extremist groups, demonizing their political opponents, and urging supporters to win the battle for God against their fellow Americans. This kind of division builds hate, hurts communities and makes our democracy vulnerable to more violence.”

“We reject General Flynn and his allies’ hijacking of the Gospel for political purposes. This tour is a dangerous and immoral political event in Jesus’ name that promotes misinformation, lies, and even out-right violence, and has no place in the church of God,” added the Rev. Nathan Empsall, executive director of Faithful America, which sponsored the mobile billboard and has been working closely with clergy in Rochester and Batavia to oppose the tour.  

Nationally, more than 21,000 Christians have signed petitions from Faithful America, rejecting the ReAwaken America Tour and asking churches not to associate with the event. Another 25,000 Christians -- including the presiding bishops of the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America -- also signed a previous statement from the Christians Against Christian Nationalism initiative denouncing the ideology that now underlies the tour.

Democratic Socialists to host 'anti-fascists' teach-in at Austin Park during ReAwaken America Tour

By Press Release

Press release:

The Genesee County Branch of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is organizing an antifascist teach-in on Saturday, August 13, from 1 to 4 p.m., at Austin Park to stand against the local stop of the “ReAwaken America Tour” (RAT).

The tour is “an opportunity for fascists to spread hate and recruit,” said Gina Schelemanow, a member of the ROC DSA Genesee County Branch Organizing Committee. “It is important to understand why they are doing this and actively stand against it.”

The August 12 and 13 stop was originally planned for the Main Street Armory in Rochester. A grassroots effort led by Rochester DSA (ROC DSA) [] and the Rochester Mutual Aid Network (RMAN) [] successfully pressured the owner of the venue to cancel the stop. The stop was then moved to the Cornerstone Church in Batavia.

During the teach-in speakers will argue that “demagogues like the RAT speakers take people’s justified anxiety and anger about the state of the country and the world and blame the weak for the decisions of powerful elites,” said Logan Wyatt Cole, a member of the ROC DSA Genesee County Branch Organizing Committee. “These people are desperate to stop working people from banding together to make the government work for us. They spread hate to turn us violently against each other—while they laugh all the way to the bank,” Cole added.

Schelemanow put the teach-in in context: “This is also a moment to come together as a larger Western New York community that has resisted the RAT for months and reflect on victories, as well as how to fight fascism locally in the future.”

The teach-in organizers have worked closely with organizers from the ROC DSA and RMAN. Several other organizations have urged supporters to attend the teach-in, including, locally, GLOW Women Rise.

Gina Schelemanow of Genesee County DSA urged opponents of fascism, opponents of Christian nationalism, and opponents of white supremacy to attend the teach-in. “While we will be three miles away from the hatefest, people who attend far-right events do have a history of aggressive behavior.” Schelemanow, therefore, suggested that parents exercise caution when deciding whether to bring children along. 

As safety measure, staff at Independent Living to work remotely Friday during ReAwaken America event in Batavia

By Press Release

Press release:

In light of the disruptions that may occur from the “ReAwaken America” Tour in Batavia, Independent Living of the Genesee Region (ILGR) will be providing programs and services remotely this Friday, August 12th.

ILGR will not allow the event to interfere with its continued advocacy and service for all members of our community. Out of an abundance of caution, though, staff will conduct business as usual on Friday by telephone, E-mail, and video and web conferencing.

Last week, the governing board of the Independent Living of the Genesee Region released an anti-hate and racism statement in reaction to recent violent events in Western New York and across the country.

Director Rae Frank said “The Governing Council of ILGR felt that it was time to stand up and make it known that the people with disabilities will stand by our friends and neighbors who find themselves marginalized in our society, regardless of their religion, color, sexual identity, and other characteristics.  They have, and always will have, a friend and a partner at ILGR.” 

As a member of the Western New York Independent Living, Inc. Family of Agencies, Independent Living of the Genesee Region offers an expanding array of programs and services to help individuals with disabilities take and keep control of their own lives.

City resident calls Council members 'fascists' for not speaking out against ReAwaken America Tour

By Mike Pettinella

“Are you a white supremacist? Do you support fascism?”

Ross Street resident Danielle Clark, while protesting against the ReAwaken America Tour event scheduled for Cornerstone Church on Bank Street Road, directed those questions to Batavia City Council members at the outset of their Conference Meeting on Monday night.

Stating that she is “horrified” by the response of public officials in Genesee County regarding the tour, Clark said City Council should not be able to stand behind “plausible deniability” since the event isn’t taking place within the city limits.

“I’m here tonight to tell you and to tell the people of the city of Batavia, that that’s not true,” she said, before asking how much the city would be paying toward the deployment of the Emergency Response Team for the tour.

She said she spoke with a city police officer, who confirmed the ERT has been asked to deploy. She said she was not told the cost for security reasons.

“Therefore, leaving me not able to tell you exactly how much it will cost the taxpayers of the city of Batavia. But there will be a cost,” she said, adding that she was told the Batavia Police Department “shoulders approximately 60 percent of the cost of the ERT deployment.”

Clark said city leaders have an obligation to speak out against the RAT.

“I don’t delude myself with the idea that you guys, or any government agency, has the authority or the power to prevent events that are being held in a prime location,” she continued. “However, I do believe, and I am here to hold you to account for this belief, that as public servants it is your duty to clearly, vocally, loudly, express your opposition for an event like this coming to our community.

“It is your duty as public servants to let organizations like this know that this city does not stand for hate. The city does not stand for lawlessness. And we won't abide it.”

At that point she posed the “white supremacist” question to Council members and city employees in attendance, prompting Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. to tell her to direct her questions to the chair.

Clark then said, “Mr. Chair then, I would like you to ask the employees if they are white supremacists. Do you support fascism? The people of this city deserve to have answers to those very straightforward questions.”

She then said she would be “listening closely” to Council members’ response to her comments after the public comment period.

“In the days ahead, I will be listening carefully for the Council members — our Council as a whole — to publicly speak against this event coming to our area,” she said. “We await a statement expressing that you have heard our very valid concerns and to tell those attending the tour that though they have found a way around the law by holding their event inside a church, (that) outside the church, the law still stands and will be enforced.”

Later in the meeting, when no one on Council addressed her concerns, Clark darted off, blurting, “Each and every one of you, showed your true colors. You are fascists and you are on the wrong side of history.”

Then, as she walked out of the room, she used a four-letter word against the City of Batavia.

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.






Independent Living of Genesee Region calls on organizers to cancel ReAwaken America Tour in Batavia

By Press Release

Press release:

This past week, the governing Board of the Independent Living of the Genesee Region (ILGR) has released an anti-hate and racism statement, in reaction to recent violent events in Western New York and across the country.

Director Rae Frank said “The Governing Council of ILGR felt that it was time to stand up and make it known that the people with disabilities will stand by our friends and neighbors who find themselves marginalized in our society regardless of their religion, color, sexual identity, and other characteristics.  They have, and always will have, a friend and a partner at ILGR.” 

ILGR has adopted the following Equity Statement in response to the aforementioned recent violent racist acts in Buffalo and around the Country. 

“Independent Living of the Genesee Region unequivocally believes all forms of hate and violence directed against people based on their race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, religion, age, size, immigration, economic, or housing status has no place in our community.  We are in opposition to all discrimination and racism.  We stand with all members in unity for our community.  Independent Living of the Genesee Region will always be committed to stand with our community and will fight prejudice, discrimination, racism, and bigotry as we continue to advocate for tolerance, inclusion and understanding.”

ILGR believes that this statement is particularly applicable to the recent announcement of Clay Clark’s “ReAwaken America Tour” coming to Cornerstone Church in Batavia.

ILGR joins other concerned citizens in asking for this event to be cancelled in respect for the pain and suffering of many Americans in recent weeks. There is an online petition on the website which can be accessed at this URL: Interested persons can make their own decisions on whether to join us in asking for this event to bypass our community.

A tour, peaceful protests, and disagreement make for nasty recipe

By Joanne Beck


And so it begins to get ugly.

A peaceful debate between Paul Doyle, senior pastor of Cornerstone Church, and a group of local Christian leaders has now brought others -- defenders of the ReAwaken America tour --  into the mix with threats and nastiness. One of those Christian leaders had served as spokesperson, but she wants it known that there are several others of the same mindset: they don’t want the ReAwaken America Tour here in Batavia. Or anywhere, for that matter, and especially not in this community.

The group has rallied others together for two protests so far; one outside of Cornerstone on Bank Street Road, and the second one in front of City Hall. People have carried signs and been relatively quiet during these events. The Rev. Roula Alkhouri has spoken on behalf of others but would like their involvement also recognized. The group signed and delivered a letter to Doyle after a meeting this past weekend. It states the leaders’ viewpoint about the tour, its implications, the reasons for concern, and messages that have reportedly been given at other tour events.

Concerns of the group about the tour, according to the letter, include:

1. Inciting Violence and Hatred: The speakers for this event mix militant language with religious imagery while speaking of life-and-death stakes, building an implicit permission structure for audience members to commit political violence in the name of God.

Although few speakers have exposed themselves to prosecution by explicitly calling for violence - strategically leaving themselves room for plausible deniability - they allow their audience to connect the dots by downplaying past political violence committed in God's name, demonizing their political opponents as "Team Satan," and urging supporters to win the battle for God against their fellow Americans.

“Batavia is a small, peaceful community, and it is our moral responsibility to protect it from any potential for violence,” it states.

2. Dividing Americans: The false claims of the speakers of this tour about the 2020 election, the stated vision for only one religion in our nation of religious freedom, the demonization of political opponents, and the continued attacks on our democracy are all attempts to divide Americans, pitting us against us each other.

This kind of division and hate hurts communities and makes us vulnerable to more violence. We do not have to share political views to reject the hateful rhetoric and divisive language of this event and its speakers. As Jesus says, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. Luke 17:11b.”

3. Distorting Christianity with Nationalism: We are so concerned that the name of Jesus is used by this tour's speakers to advance an exclusivist vision of our country as a "Christian nation," even to the point of one prominent speaker urging pastors to preach the Constitution more than we do the Bible. Seeking political power and domination of others is the opposite of what Jesus taught us about loving our neighbors. Christianity is a global religion, and America is a place that cherishes religious freedom for all people.

“We are patriots who love our country, yet we cannot let patriotism become a false idol,” the group states. “We have an American identity and a Christian identity, but they are separate.”

“We prayerfully urge you to cancel hosting this tour to protect our town from having to deal with division, hate, and violence in the name of Christ,” the group states. “Please let us know by Tuesday, August 2 what your intentions are about this event. We are holding you in our prayers as you discern.”

Meanwhile, Alkhouri (pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Batavia) said she has received some “threatening and hateful” phone calls and notes. One such threat was to expose her name nationally.

“These are Christians who are saying that they want to have my name out there in the community and around the country so that I am exposed to lawsuits and to other pressures,” she said. Yet she is not a single defender of this stance, but one of several people. Alkhouri doesn't believe that anyone should be the subject of deragatory comments.

"I think when people try to attack others in the name of defending justice, we all lose," she said. "No one wins when we degrade each other and become fearful or hateful of each other." 

The list of names on the letter includes:

  • Ruth E. Andes, Racial Justice Working Group, Genesee Valley Presbytery, and Byron Presbyterian Church
  • Rev. Joy Bergfalk
  • Rev. David R. Glassmire (Roman Catholic, Pastor Ascension Parish -Batavia)
  • Rev. Bob Kaiser (Presbyterian - Rochester)
  • Deacon Diana Leiker (Episcopalian - Akron)
  • Rev. Dr. Shiela McCullough (Chaplain - Batavia)
  • Rev. James Morasco (American Baptist and United Church of Christ – Batavia)
  • Rev. Laurel Nelson (Presbyterian - Dansville)
  • Rev. Elaine Paige (Chaplain - Batavia)
  • Rev. Jimmy Reader
  • Rev. Chava Redonnet (Chaplain - Rochester)
  • Rev. James Renfrew (Retired minister)
  • Pastor Mark Ross (Presbyterian - Batavia)
  • Pastor Brad Smith and the Attica First Presbyterian Church
  • Rev. Michael Stuart (Presbyterian - Batavia)
  • Jim Tappon (Elder - Irondequoit Presbyterian Church)
  • Lucia VerTseeg (Presbyterian - Rochester)
  • Rev. Evan Wildhack (Presbyterian - Corfu)

The Batavian reached out to Doyle for comments about how the meeting went, and his response to the letter. He said that there are “different political perspectives” on each side and that it was a very cordial conversation. However, he does not agree with the “many fears” their position generates, and his decision has not changed.

“We are fully behind this event and resolved on our stance to host the ReAwaken America Tour.  We see this as a Christian-based assembly addressing the many issues that face American people — offering a biblical perspective,” he said. “We feel compelled to host this event because of the many highly respected Christian speakers that are scheduled over this two-day event.”

As a Batavia native, Batavia High School and Genesee Community College graduate, and former GCC Foundation and Batavia Rotary Club member, he emphasized that “the protesters do not love Batavia more than I do.”

He and church leaders are taking “every precaution” within their power to ensure a safe and secure event, he said, within the immediate proximity of Cornerstone property. There has been another side to the protests, he said.

“Although there have been voices of opposition, the support for the event has been pouring into our church, not only locally, but nationally as well,” he said. “In addition, we have received calls from several local clergy that support us.”

Doyle said there have been talks with local police, including the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, and Cornerstone plans to fully cooperate with law enforcement’s instructions.  He said those local law officials have been connected with top security officials representing the event organizers.

“I feel the event has been over-dramatized. Speakers and attendees are law-abiding and patriotic citizens of the USA,” he said. “Although many issues are occurring in our country that is hotly debated, I have found no reasonable rationale for cancelling this peaceful assembly of Americans exercising their First Amendment (right) of freedom of speech.”

Groups of protesters, including the list above, are trying to plan prayer vigils and at least one more public event in opposition to the tour before it happens on August 12 and 13. Although some have disputed that this is not a political event, many speakers have claimed that Donald Trump won the election and disparage President Joseph Biden and others in the current White House administration. Other speakers discourage COVID vaccines and masks based on unverifiable evidence. To view tour speakers, go here.

Read the full letter here.


Top photo: Cornerstone Church with new fencing around its property in preparation for the tour. File photo of a protest last month in front of City Hall, above, in Batavia. Photos by Howard Owens.

Group gathers at City Hall on Saturday to say ReAwaken America Tour doesn't represent community

By Howard B. Owens


About 30 people turned out Saturday afternoon at Batavia City Hall for a short protest against the ReAwaken America Tour coming to Batavia on Aug. 12 and 13.

Cornerstone Church, on Bank Street Road, will host the event.

Rev. Roula Alkhouri of First Presbyterian Church of Batavia, told the assembled group she objected to the event coming to Batavia because it mispresents the community, which she described as peaceful and neighborly, and misrepresents Christianity, replacing the gospel of love with a message of hate and violence.

"We're not accusing anybody of being hateful," Alkhouri said. "We’re just listening to their words. Listening to how they're speaking, how they’re expressing themselves."

She quoted one of the scheduled speakers, Scott Mckay, who reportedly told an interviewer: 

"This is war. It’s gonna get bloody, and I’m going to get ugly too; no less ugly than any 1776 preacher that dropped his Bible on the lectern, grabbed his muzzleloader or musket, and went out and put balls and bullets inside people and watched blood flow on a battlefield. That’s what they had to do. That’s the name of Christ ... 

"Any of the minions, including the doctors and nurses who were part of it—knowingly or unknowingly, that’s not for me to sort out—but they need to know what is coming next."



Alkhouri added, "this is not American. They do not stand for Christianity, but they are using the guise of religion, which really hurts us, people of faith who believe that faith is about expanding our horizons to love, and they’re using it to become more exclusive, using it to divide Americans."


Genesee County officials weigh in about ReAwaken tour: traffic biggest concern

By Joanne Beck


Despite the calls of alarm for a scheduled ReAwaken America visit next month, Genesee County officials are hopeful, or at least reassured by the Sheriff’s Office, that the concern may be for naught.

The Batavian asked legislators for comment, and the Sheriff’s Office for a security plan, regarding the impending and irrefutably controversial tour that’s making its way to several states, including Batavia, New York.

“We’ve received a few complaints,” Legislator Gary Maha said after Wednesday's Legislature meeting. “We have no authority to stop it from coming to the church. We have spoken to the sheriff to make sure he’s aware, and that extra time is taken to make sure that the public is safe.”

County Manager Matt Landers said that of the people that reached out to him directly, the majority were on the “con side” of the pro-con issues expressing their concerns.

“However, after speaking with the sheriff, he has had one of his chief deputies, I believe, doing the investigation, speaking to other communities that have hosted these events. And I've been pleased to find out that there have not been any reported issues of the magnitude of the concerns that have been raised to me,” Landers said. “The concerns have been about the element that comes into our community, as far as any kind of disruptions, any kind of fights, any kind of lawlessness. None of those have occurred in the research done by the sheriff's office, which was heartening to me.”

Legislature Chairwoman Shelley Stein had but four words after Landers' response: "He took my words."

Brian Frieday, chief deputy on road patrol for the Sheriff’s Office, said that he has been in contact with Pastor Paul Doyle of Cornerstone Church, who agreed to host the tour, and Frieday expects additional discussions “regarding security and what is expected there.”

“Any information we receive will go toward planning for our potential presence in the area,” Frieday said.  “We have reached out to other jurisdictions that the event was held in and have had no reports of any confrontations or violence.” 

While that information has provided some relief for Landers, the actual basis of the tour is another thing altogether.

“As far as the content that goes out of the church like that, there’s freedom of speech, and the government can't take a position,” he said. “Personally, as a citizen, I'm not a fan of the rhetoric that comes out of an event like that. But as a county, the position that we're taking is that the free speech issue that they are entitled to, we have our local law enforcement … ensuring everything is gonna go smoothly, and I have all the confidence in the world that everything will go smoothly.”

Legislator Marianne Clattenburg wasn’t even certain what “reawaken even means,” she said. She does have faith in the people of Genesee County to act responsibly.

“This county tends to be very peaceful and tolerant of one another,” Clattenburg said. “Hopefully it goes off smoothly and they have their peaceful assembly.”

She, Maha, and Legislator John Deleo wondered if there would be a traffic issue, considering the possible volume of people from other counties attending the two-day event. The tour was originally scheduled in Rochester until the venue operator backed out due to protests and heavy pressure not to host — and thereby approve of — the event in Monroe County.

One potential scenario is that, in addition to those from Genesee County, flocks of other people from out of the county may also attend. It wouldn’t be the first time that parking was tight at Cornerstone, as last year’s tent meetings required extra security, traffic guards, parking up and down Bank Street Road, and an extra parking lot across the street at Batavia Soccer Park.

Maha and Clattenburg said that the soccer park would not be an option this year.

Legislator Brooks Hawley said that he has received “one email and one phone call,” and was going to respond to them Thursday. The event is at a church, and that means “it’s not really under our control,” he said.

Chad Klotzbach and fellow Legislator Gordon Dibble had little to say about the event as county officials. They didn’t feel it was in their jurisdiction to offer comment, and Dibble added that “I don't know enough about it to really give an educated comment.”

The tour is set for August 16 and 17 at Cornerstone Church, 8020 Bank Street Road, Batavia.

Photo by Lisa Casey of Genesee County legislators at Genesee County Fair this week.

Protest at Cornerstone delivers peaceful appeal to love not hate

By Alecia Kaus


A group of protesters displaying signs lined both sides of the road in front of Cornerstone Church Sunday morning on Bank Street Road.

The protesters expressed their distaste for a group of people that are scheduled to speak at the location next month. The ReAwaken America Tour was recently cancelled in Rochester due to pressure on the venue operator from musical acts that canceled their appearances and pressure from the public. For prior coverage, go here for protest and here for the tour.

The tour has since relocated to Batavia at Cornerstone Church in the Town of Batavia. Many Christian leaders issued a message that they were against the event due to the controversial content talked about during the event. That reportedly has included unproven conspiracy theories and racist themes.


Jim Burns, organizer of the Batavia protest, said the protest group was created with the help of local pastors in the GLOW region, and they are hoping to reach members of the Cornerstone Church as they arrive for their Sunday morning sermon at 10 a.m.

"This group was put together and spearheaded by them," Burns said. "They were very upset and moved emotionally. Some were brought to tears saying they could not believe a church was hosting (the ReAwaken tour) to come in and talk like they are going to talk."

Burns says he wanted to be involved and organize the protest because of the division he is seeing along with the devaluation of human life.

"It's unbelievable to me, the people that are coming to this church in a couple weeks are sowing division. We need to stop this as a country," he said. "The Democratic party does it, the Republican party does it. It's time for it to stop, and as American citizens, we need to stop it. This is all about division and the hatred that comes with it. We are all Americans and shouldn't be enemies to ourselves."


Burns said he has no political or religious affiliations. He believes people have the right to assemble.

"Most people here are not going to like my view with that. We have the right to be here and the church has the right to host them, we all have the right to be heard, and that's the way America should work; it's not one side or the other saying the other side can't do that," he said. "I am out here protesting the people who are coming and their beliefs, absolutely one hundred percent. I am absolutely a nobody. I am just a citizen. Everybody here has their own personal reasons to be here, some are affiliated with other groups. They are here because of the racism; they are here because they think Batavia is a better town and shouldn't be hosting this."

Many protesters had their own reasons to show up to the Sunday protest.

"We've been here holding our signs spreading a message of love and tolerance. It's very encouraging because there are a lot of people in Batavia who don't stand for these terrible fascist, racist ideas, it's really good to see," said protester Logan Cole.


The protest started about 9:30 a.m. on Sunday as members of the Cornerstone Church were arriving for a 10 a.m. sermon. The church had security on hand and did have to intervene after a woman from the Cornerstone property crossed the road and attempted to pull a sign down from another woman’s face and take her photo. A member of the church with a radio responded across the street and collected the woman, telling her to not engage with protesters. She was escorted back onto the church property, which was roped off with yellow tape. The protest ended at about 10:15 a.m.





Top photo: Protesters displaying messages to members of Cornerstone Church as they arrived for service Sunday morning. A short time later a church member tried to pull down one woman's sign and take her photo (on the left). Otherwise, it was a fairly uneventful, peaceful protest for about 45 minutes at the Bank Street Road, Batavia church. Church security escorted the member back to the church as protesters continued on with their mission. Photos by Alecia Kaus.

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