ACT for America, the nation’s largest anti-Muslim hate group, will convene in Crystal City, Virginia, on September 4-5 for its annual national conference. Now in its 10th year, the conference will bring together ACT’s base along with anti-Muslim speakers and U.S. members of Congress.
This year’s conference will feature such anti-Muslim mainstays as Ryan Mauro, Stephen Coughlin and Deborah Weiss. Other speakers include Fox News’ Tomi Lahren and Charlie Kirk, founder and president of the conservative student group Turning Point USA (TPUSA). Brigitte Gabriel, ACT’s founder and president, tweeted, “We hope to partner with [TPUSA] for years to come!”
ACT will also hold its regular legislative briefing on Capitol Hill where conference attendees are likely to hear from around a dozen U.S. lawmakers who seemingly sympathize with the group’s message. Past attendees have ranged from Sen. Ted Cruz to Rep. Lou Barletta to Mike Pompeo, who now heads the U.S. State Department.
Organized nativism will have a presence at this year’s conference as well. Jessica Vaughan from the anti-immigrant hate group Center for Immigration Studies and Chris Chmielenski of NumbersUSA, another nativist group that is part of the John Tanton network, are scheduled to speak on a panel at the conference. Gabriel previously appeared in a video series produced by NumbersUSA in 2007 where she called to “scrutinize any Muslim running for [public] office.”
ACT for America has increased its focus on undocumented immigrants as of late, specifically ramping up anti-sanctuary city rhetoric in 2018. One of the keynote speakers at the conference this year will be Thomas Homan, former director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ACT has been supportive of ICE and the Trump administration’s draconian immigration policies. ACT is hosting Homan as part of its “Back the Blue” campaign, a law enforcement appreciation initiative the group launched earlier this year.
ACT’s “Back the Blue” campaign is part of its scattershot activism in 2018, which has also included voter-registration drives. These campaigns are likely a public relations move on ACT’s part after the negative press it received for its 2017 national “March Against Sharia” rallies, which attracted white nationalists, neo-Nazis and antigovernment groups — all of which were united by anti-Muslim animus. These campaigns, however — along with ACT’s alleged aggressive fundraising requests — have alienated some of the group’s more loyal members.
In April, one of ACT’s more vibrant chapters in Treasure Valley, Idaho, announced plans to dissolve and form a new group, citing issues with the national office. The chapter explained in an email, writing:
Many of us in our chapter believe that the national leadership of this organization is losing focus on what was the original mission — to increase the awareness of Islam and its threat to our country and our culture and to do whatever we can to fight against this. Further, their continuous requests for donations have turned off many of our members. We do believe that some of their recent activities such as “Back the Blue,” “Stop Sanctuary Cities,” and “Build the Wall,” are important and need to be done — but that was not why many of us became members.
Another ardent chapter in Lake County, Montana, split for similar reasons, saying that while they “agree with the principles and purpose of Act,” they “ended up not agreeing with some of the methods and directions coming from Act headquarters in DC [sic].”
Anti-Muslim rhetoric is still likely to feature heavily at the conference. The conference will take place shortly before the release of a new book by Gabriel. The book encourages people to “rise” and “preserve our endangered Judeo-Christian values and freedoms.”
The conference will take place at a Hyatt hotel this year, which has sparked controversy. Scott Simpson, public advocacy director for the civil rights group Muslim Advocates, accused the hotel chain of “enabling hate.”