“I am not a racist,” says Rev. Dennis Campbell of the response to an ad he placed in the St. Cloud Times in March that stated, “Moslems [sic] seek to influence a nation by immigration, reproduction, education, the government, illegal drugs and by supporting the gay agenda.” In a report on Minnesota Public Radio today, Campbell says his intention was religious conversion. “I think some people misjudged the article… Jesus is the key to heaven. That’s why we’re interested in helping them not to follow a religion of any kind: Protestant, Christian or Eastern or whatever. But rather to come to a place where they’re willing to acknowledge Jesus Christ as their savior and lord.”
The Granite City Baptist Church ad, first covered by the Minnesota Independent in March, claimed that “in 30 years there will be 50 million Moslems in America,” and that they’ll “destroy the constitution and force the Moslem religion on the society, take freedom of religion away, and they will persecute all other religions.”
But Campbell tells MPR that those upset by the ad should re-read the last paragraph, which calls Christians to “influence the Moslems for Jesus Christ.”
“If the whole aim of this article was to convert people, there are other ways that the pastor can convert people to his religion,” Alikhadar Yusuf, a St. Cloud imam, told MPR. “But this type of language when you use it in an article – and a lot of people will read this article – it will create a lot of fear.”
The appeared as racial and religious tensions continued to flare up in and around St. Cloud. In December, fliers mocking Islam were found on area telephone poles, and last week news came that the U.S. Department of Education was investigating cases of alleged harassment of area Muslim students. Campbell’s ad sparked a rebuttal ad campaign of sorts from the Council on American Islamic Relations.
But it’s not the first time Campbell’s has referenced Islam or, for that matter, homosexuality. Several church newsletters opine about the influence of gays, lesbians, liberals and communists, including one edition (pdf) in which Campbell lamented that secular textbook publishers “are pressured to to portray feminists, homosexuals, and Muslims in a positive light.” He continued, “We need textbooks that are free from political and philosophical influences that contradict the TRUTH of the Bible or historical facts. “