On Thursday, October 27, Oklahoma State Rep. John Bennett will be the recipient of an award presented by the Center for Security Policy (CSP), an anti-Muslim think tank headed by notorious conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney.
Bennett, who has previously said Islam “is not even a religion,” will receive CSP’s “National Defender of Freedom Award” at an event scheduled to take place at the Sequoyah County Fairgrounds in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, as reported by the the Sequoyah County Times.
This event marks the second time in one week that Bennett will formally mingle with known anti-Muslim figures. On Tuesday, Bennett invited John Guandolo and Chris Gaubatz of the anti-Muslim consulting firm Understanding the Threat to host an interim study for state lawmakers on the supposed threat posed to Oklahoma by Muslims and Shariah law. Other known anti-Muslim spokespeople such as Kamal Saleem, CSP’s Frank Gaffney, and Stephen Coughlin also provided testimony.
During the session, Bennett lamented “political correctness and the bowing down of elected leaders every time the liberal media or the real threat calls us names for sounding the alarm.”
Bennett is now set to be honored for his “support of America’s national security,” as CSP misleadingly categorizes his anti-Muslim fear-mongering.
Honoring Bennett represents a broader, problematic trend of CSP courting elected officials at the state and local level. The award will be presented by Tommy Waller, CSP’s director of State legislative outreach. Waller pushes the conspiratorial narrative Shariah law is encroaching on American courts at the state level. This includes promoting needless and deliberately bigoted anti-Shariah legislation known as American Laws for American Courts (ALAC). Waller has previously compared the religion of Islam to “the plague.”
This week, another one of CSP’s employees, Christopher Holton, traveled to the state capitol in Little Rock, Arkansas to present state Sen. Jason Rapert with another one of its “Defender of Freedom” awards. Rapert was being honored for introducing model legislation known as Andy’s Law, which enacts harsher penalties for those who commit terrorist acts. These types of bills are championed by CSP as well as the anti-Muslim grassroots group ACT for America.
In 2015, CSP honored Irving, Texas mayor and anti-Shariah crusader Beth Van Duyne with its “Defender of Freedom Award.” Van Duyne gained popularity in conservative circles for her staunch opposition to a Dallas-based Islamic Tribunal. The Irving City Council also voted 5-4 to support an anti-Shariah law bill making its way through the Texas House of Representatives.
Earlier this year, on the same day CSP was designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Holton testified before the Kansas House Federal and State Affairs Committee on behalf of a bill seeking to halt refugee resettlement in parts of the state. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Peggy Mast, introduced the bill after consulting with Holton.
Also in early 2016, Idaho state Rep. Eric Redman cited a dodgy report published by CSP to justify a bill he introduced to ban “foreign laws” from state courts.
This is not the first time Rep. Bennett has associated with CSP. In 2013, he organized a law enforcement training via his informal House Counterterrorism Caucus that featured featured CSP’s Frank Gaffney and Clare Lopez.
And in 2014, Bennett co-organized a virtual town hall meeting on terrorism that also featured Gaffney.