Next Thursday, Idaho Falls will simultaneously host a speech from conservative writer David Barton and a rally opposing his ideas.
City Councilman John Radford said he and Miranda Marquit, the chairwoman of the Bonneville County Democrats, decided to organize the Inclusive Community Rally on Facebook as a protest to Barton's announcement as the speaker for the Bonneville County GOP's annual Lincoln Day Banquet. Barton is an author and manager of the Wallbuilders website, which Radford believed attacks his own faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by promoting an exclusive agenda that promotes Christianity over all other faiths.
"I made a commitment to speak out when we see exclusionary practices in our community. People want to make our country about one faith and we're going to push back on that," Radford said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center labels Barton as an extremist for his opposition to the LGBT community and his belief that the Founding Fathers never intended for a separation between the Christian church and the state. In 2012, his book "The Jefferson Lies" was dropped by its publisher over major historical errors about Thomas Jefferson's life and beliefs.
Radford and Marquit have invited speakers from multiple faiths and minority groups to speak at the Inclusive Community Rally about their positive experiences with the diversity of the city. The rally will be held at the Idaho Falls Friendship Garden on Thursday afternoon, across town from the dinner at the Melaleuca corporate headquarters.
Bonneville County GOP Chairman Mark Fuller said the party had no problem with the existence of the other rally but said any speaker they brought in would face opposition from the local Democratic party.
"Inviting a speaker doesn't necessarily mean you adopt every position taken by them. We are neutral on his beliefs — he's just our speaker," Fuller said.
Past speakers at the local Lincoln Day Banquet include Fox News host Jeanine Pirro and conservative filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza. Fuller added that the Bonneville County Republican Party had no plans to hold an opposing event to the Bonneville County Democrats' Truman Banquet event in May.
The Inclusion Rally will begin at 5 p.m. and the Lincoln Day dinner begins at 6 p.m., allowing people to attend both the speech and the rally if they choose to.