An Illinois chapter of the anti-Muslim grassroots groups ACT! for America has come under scrutiny for hosting a screening of Geert Wilders‘ “Warning to America” speech at a public library on May 17. In response to complaints, Des Plaines Public Library staff condemned ACT!’s message, but also noted that the library cannot deny the chapter usage of its public meeting rooms due to the First Amendment and other laws.
“Personally, leadership at DPPL finds the materials being shared by ACT! for Des Plaines reprehensible, bigoted and Islamaphobic [sic] and we in no way agree with the hateful sentiments they express,” Library Director Holly Sorensen said in a statement. “But, by law and the First Amendment, DPPL cannot deny usage of public meeting rooms to a community organization because we personally do not agree.”
Sorenson added, “It is our hope the controversy this event generates will expose the areas within our community where bigotry and racism exist and we fully support our Islamic community’s efforts to peacefully fight this prejudice.”
Des Plaines for ACT! was co-founded by Sara Schmidt and Fran Volpe last September. The recent controversy highlights the continuing efforts of anti-Muslim activists to demonize Muslim and immigrant communities under the auspices of “defending free speech.”