would you counterprotest a neo-nazi rally?
Neo-Nazis say they're coming to Danbury
By Elizabeth Putnam THE NEWS-TIMES
A rally calling for an end to the separation of church and state is expected to draw hundreds to downtown Danbury on Tuesday, including members of a neo-Nazi group who plan to wear swastikas on their black jackets.
Minutemen United, an Ohio-based Christian organization, is holding the rally Tuesday afternoon, because "the wall between the separation of church and state must be torn down," the group's leader and founder Dave Daubenmire said Wednesday.
Minutemen United expects up to 300 people at the event on the Danbury Green, but that number could increase as word of the rally spreads. Members of other organizations that advocate unity between religion and government say they plan to attend.
The Grey Wolves, a Northeast-based white supremacist group loosely affiliated with the Christian Identity Movement, will bring three busloads of people to the rally, Rick Renage, Grey Wolves spokesman, said Wednesday.
Renage read about the rally at NewsTimesLive.com, The News-Times' Web site, which posted information Wednesday afternoon about the event.
"We just want to show our solidarity with the churches who are sponsoring this activity," Renage said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization known for its battles with white supremacists and its tracking of extremist groups across the country, could not confirm whether the Grey Wolves is a hate group.
Still, Frank Caporale, a non-denominational Christian from Danbury who is helping to organize the rally, told Renage not to attend.
"This is not a demonstration. This is a solemn assembly," Caporale said. "This is religious, not political. I want people from all walks of life to feel comfortable attending."
Renage said his group will not cause any trouble.
"I, personally, am not looking for any confrontations, but if we are provoked, we will react very strongly," he said in an e-mail to The News-Times.
Danbury Police Detective Lt. Tom Michael said he would have more information today about how the police department will handle the rally.
The Rev. Bob Cutting, pastor of Mountain Church of God in Brookfield and member of Minutemen United, said he was not aware of the Grey Wolves' participation, but he said all are welcome as long as they do not bring signs.
"It's open to the public. We just don't want any disruption," Cutting said. "This is about the separation of church and state."
Dozens of church-state issues test the bounds of the First Amendment every year. There is raging debate over whether government vouchers should be used to pay for parochial school tuition and whether students can pray or study Biblical theories of man's creation in public schools.
President Bush has sparked controversy over whether the government should provide funding for faith-based social service organizations. Some Christian public officials have butted heads with the courts over the posting of the Ten Commandments in government buildings.
Daubenmire said he wanted to spotlight these issues and decided to hold a rally in Danbury because of the city's historical significance.
After the Revolutionary War, local government still had Congregationalist preachers on the payroll. In protest, the Danbury Baptist Association wrote a letter in 1801 to then-President Thomas Jefferson asking him to help, said Bob Young, a researcher at the Danbury Historical Society who helped Daubenmire study the city's history.
In response, Jefferson wrote a letter that included the phrase "wall of separation between church and state."
"Jefferson's intent was never to keep God out of government," said Daubenmire, who picked Tuesday for the rally because it's the 231st anniversary of Paul Revere's famous midnight ride.
Jefferson's intentions and what the Founding Fathers saw for the new nation is the subject of much debate and the topic of many books.
Western Connecticut State University President James W. Schmotter, who has a doctorate in history from Northwestern University, said the Founding Fathers intended to keep government and religion separate.
"Jefferson and the Founding Fathers were really all about compromise and balance when creating the Constitution," Schmotter said.
To say the Founding Fathers wanted to keep church and state as one is a misinterpretation of history, he added.
these people are congregating not 5 walking minutes from my front door. i can't sit in my house and know they're there and not do anyhting, it's not ok. it's just not. what would you do?