Disgraced Holocaust Denier Hosted by Alabama Atheist

Strange Bedfellows

David Irving, a writer whose Holocaust denial activities caused a British judge to label him "a right-wing, pro-Nazi polemicist," has been repeatedly hosted by the largest neo-Nazi group in America. David Duke, the famous former Klan leader, has organized talks and book sales for him. Others who've tried to help Irving sell his wares — the judge called them "deliberate" falsifications designed to slander Jews and hold Hitler up as a hero — include a host of other white supremacists.

And then there is Larry Darby.

Darby is not your typical host for Holocaust deniers. He is president of the Alabama-based, nonprofit Atheist Law Center. The bespectacled Darby is normally a lonely voice in supremely conservative Alabama, arguing against religion in all forms.

But in early July, Darby hosted Irving — who he described as "an expert on World War Two, the Nazi era and the erosion ... of free speech" — and about a dozen atheists at a meeting in the Holiday Inn of Prattville, Ala. Most of those who attended seemed to know little about Irving's background. Others, who heard about the appearance by E-mail, expressed their shock privately.

Darby will hear none of it. To him, he is the victim of "semantic terrorism" that is destroying free speech in America. After all, he told the Intelligence Report, racism originated with Jews' description of themselves as the "chosen" people. "I think it's easy in this country to speak out on Christianity and even Islam," Darby said. "I think it's more difficult to speak out on things of a Jewish nature."

For his part, Irving told those who assembled in Prattville of the case that ruined his career as a purported historian. Irving had sued Deborah Lipstadt, a well-known Holocaust scholar who had accused him of pro-Nazi sympathies and false reporting in his books. At the conclusion of a hugely publicized libel trial in London, the court found that Lipstadt was justified in her published criticisms.

In Prattville, Irving emphasized the brilliance of his failed defense, and complained about how he'd been ordered to pay some $5 million in court costs for Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books. Darby — whose ad for the Irving event said that Lipstadt's defense was funded "by the usual enemies of Free Speech" (Jewish groups helped pay for the defense) — listened without comment.

Darby acknowledged to the Report that many atheists had been appalled when they heard of his Irving event. But he found that utterly unreasonable.

"If they have questions, why not ask him?" Darby asked. "Why exhibit hatred for a man they do not know? When people are so brain-warped to have knee-jerk reactions like that, it makes me want to get to know him more."