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Storm Lake rally planned to promote integration, cultural diversity

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Revs. Ted and Ursula Weirich of Turning Point Community Church
A peaceful, faith-based rally is planned for this Saturday afternoon on the Buena Vista County Courthouse lawn in Storm Lake. Organizers foresee the Nov. 17 service, which is scheduled from noon until 2 p.m., as a demonstration intended to promote prayer and celebrate the area's cultural diversity.

"We're meeting at the courthouse lawn to pray," explained Rev. Ted Weirich of Turning Point Community Church. "It'll be kind of like a worship service, a very peaceful worship service, with speaking and encouraging to embrace the cultures. So, it won't be a radical demonstration; we're making it very peaceful."

The Saturday afternoon event is being organized by Weirich and his wife, Ursula Weirich, a fellow pastor at the Spencer-based church, and T. Leon Williams, director of Buena Vista University's intercultural programs, in reaction to recent news that a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) rally would be held in the Buena Vista County town this week.

T. Leon Williams, director of intercultural programs at Buena Vista University
Jaremy Lee of Alta, the organizer of the Storm Lake KKK rally, was arrested by Storm Lake police on outstanding warrants from Missouri. He later sent an e-mail to the Storm Lake Pilot-Tribune newspaper, which stated, "I am no longer a member of the (KKK group) and I am not having a rally in Iowa."

According to an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) report issued earlier this year, Klan recruiting efforts have increased throughout the Midwest over the last year. In Iowa, Klan members rallied and/or distributed recruitment fliers in Storm Lake and Denison last August. The fliers, which read, "Protect white pride. Protect Christian beliefs. Join KKK today," were placed on the windshields of parked cars in both communities.

"In Iowa, for example, the Klan has exhibited a renewed energy, with recruitment efforts by the Brotherhood of Klans (BOK) in Denison, Storm Lake and other towns that have experienced a considerable influx of immigrants from Laos, Mexico and other countries in the early 2000s," the ADL's "Ku Klux Klan Rebounds" report states. "...In addition to the BOK, former Florida Klansman Douglas Sadler has also tried to invigorate Klan activity in Iowa. Sadler was once a member of the Florida White Knights, but moved to Iowa in the mid-2000s. There, he formed the Fraternal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, based in Charles City and Cerro Gordo, which protested against gay marriage in Des Moines in January 2006."

"I think that we all feel compassion. And, I think that we, as a community, need to be concerned with other communities and be involved with them. But, somebody needs to take a stand and make a difference," Weirich replied. "I believe with the community involvement, support and pride that we have here in Spencer, we can bring that to encourage another community to be peaceful, as well as to embrace those people that make Storm Lake so unique."

Weirich, who said his heart was "grieved" when he first saw news coverage of the potential KKK-related activity in Storm Lake, requested and was granted a permit for Saturday's demonstration. The Spencer minister followed this up by contacting Williams to see if the Storm Lake-based university might want to also become involved.

"T. Leon Williams from the university will be speaking that afternoon and I will be speaking. Potential other churches have not confirmed yet," Weirich said. "We're just encouraging leadership from the community. We're also encouraging support from other churches so that we can support that community and make a difference."

* Questions about Saturday's demonstration may be directed to Revs. Ted and Ursula Weirich at 580-3400 or (712) 301-4959. Additional information may also be located on their church's Web site: www.turningpointiowa.com.

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