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The anti-Shariah conference to be held tomorrow at an Assemblies of God megachurch in Madison, Tenn., was very nearly canceled. A few weeks ago, the Nashville hotel that was scheduled to host it abruptly canceled its contract. Maury Davis, flamboyant pastor of the Cornerstone Church, saved the day when he agreed to let the coalition rent his church for the event.
“I want to know what is Sharia law, how did it come about, what does it mean and how is it implemented – just as a citizen and as a Christian, what is Sharia law?” Davis told the Christian Post.
A quick look at Davis’ history reveals that this comment was more than a little disingenuous. According to the Tennessean, Cornerstone Church has been a hotbed of anti-Islam sentiment since at least 2009, when Davis delivered a sermon titled “Islam: the Evil Religion,” warning his congregants to take a “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach to Islam.
“Islam is evil,” he reportedly said. “But not all Muslims are evil.”
Also in 2009, the church hosted a viewing of “The Forgotten People,” a film upbraiding Christians for allowing the Holocaust to happen and warning that radical Islam could be the cause of another Holocaust. Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who once called Islam “the ideology of a retarded culture,” spoke at Cornerstone last May.
Muslims aren’t the only target of Davis’ sermonizing. In 2009, he said that people who support gay marriage do so “out of the issues of a bad heart.” And in a 2010 column for the Tennessean, he wrote that “Jesus made it clear that Heaven is intolerant of any attempt at illegal immigration.”
You might imagine he would be more forgiving – for Davis is a pastor with a past. As detailed in a 2009 profile in the Nashville Scene, Davis is a convicted felon who spent 1975 to 1983 in a Texas prison for manslaughter before coming to Cornerstone – a story that features prominently in his sermons. His success as a pastor has been astronomical: The church, whose congregation numbered 250 when he arrived in 1991, now has nearly 4,000 members, and 100,000 more are said to tune in to Davis’ weekly sermons. Davis been a guest chaplain to the U.S. House of Representatives (where he prayed that the laws passed would “help to perpetuate our national Christian heritage, and that their lives will leave a legacy of good, not of evil,”) and has appeared on Fox News, where he told Mike Huckabee the story of his rise from felon to megachurch pastor.
Cornerstone itself has been the scene of many spectacles. During a 2008 Memorial Day event, soldiers rappelled from the ceiling while Col. Oliver North addressed the crowd. On July 4, 2009, it hosted a rodeo complete with what was reportedly Nashville’s largest indoor pyrotechnics display. A promotional video for the rodeo invited Tennesseans to “Join Pastor Maury Davis as he preaches the illustrated sermon, ‘No More Bull.’”