A Washington, D.C. area hotel last week closed its doors to a racist convention that had booked rooms under the benign-sounding name “American Renaissance” conference. Now all American hotels and conference centers should follow that lead, because in the U.S. renaissance means overcoming bigotry.
American Renaissance conducts a biannual conference that promotes racial and religious hatred. This year one of its guest speakers at the February conference is to be Nick Griffin, a convicted criminal who heads the British National Party, a white separatist group that contends immigrants are causing the “genocide” of “indigenous” white Britons.
The hotel canceled the booking after several groups asked it not to serve as host to a hate hoedown. Those groups will monitor the organization’s attempts to secure another meeting place. They include the United Steelworkers; One People’s Project, which describes itself as a resource for those fighting fascism; and the Mormon Worker, a newspaper based in Provo, Utah.
It specifies: “Gentlemen will wear jackets and ties to all conference events.” Apparently women are not invited.
It also tacitly acknowledges the offensiveness of its message by offering attendees tags bearing false names, which it describes as “war names”:
“We will prepare name tags in advance; please call us if you would like to use a nom de guerre.”
That link to violence is not accidental. By inviting Nick Griffin, the group embraced a criminal whose organization is connected to numerous violent–even deadly–acts.
Hotels and conference centers have every right to shun the likes of Griffin and American Renaissance. Refusing to provide a forum for hate is not a denial of First Amendment free speech rights. Griffin and the American Renaissance are free to spew their race- and religion-based venom in any public park or on any private property owned by a like-minded bigot.
Fred Redmond is the United Steelworkers Vice President for Human Affairs .