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Pinellas Republicans criticized for inviting anti-Islam speaker

Updated: The party sent out an email blast on Saturday announcing that Matusitz's speech has been postponed. No word on whether it will be rescheduled.

Pinellas County's Republican Party is facing criticism from some of its own members for inviting a University of Central Florida academic to give an anti-Islam speech at its next meeting.

In its June newsletter, the group publicized that Dr. Jonathan Matusitz, an associate professor, would be giving a 45 minute speech called “The Islamic Threat to America.” The speech is scheduled to take place roughly an hour before the organization's executive committee meets and hears from Blaise Ingoglia, the vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

On Thursday, Chris Latvala -- son of State Sen. Jack Latvala, and a likely candidate for the State House in 2014 -- took to Facebook to say he was disappointed in the party.

"I am a born again Christian saved by grace alone, through christ alone, but a local county republican meeting should not be an avenue to bash a religion that is practiced by many in Pinellas County including fellow Republicans," he wrote. "As a party our focus should be trying to win the vote of every voter regardless of their religious beliefs."

On Friday, GOP Chairman Michael Guju said opposition to Matusitz was "much ado about nothing."

For the last six months, the party has been holding educational forums an hour before its regular meetings to give speakers who "are not sanctioned by the party," a space to share their views, he said.

"I looked up the guy, I vetted him, and he has a point of view that perhaps someone may not appreciate. I understand that. That's education," Guju said. "The Republican Party is a very broad party."

That Matusitz would be speaking before the Pinellas GOP was first reported by local blogger Peter Schorsch on SaintPetersBlog.

It appears Matusitz has been making the rounds within Florida's tea party chapters. On May 13th, he spoke before The Villages Tea Party (watch his speech here) and on May 30th, according to Facebook, he addressed the East Side Tea Party in Orlando.

"The problem is not so much the average Muslim, as it is the ideology," he told the Village crowd last month, going on to say that the Koran is "a lot of hateful verses that urge the adherents to kill non-Muslims."

Matusitz told the crowd that even though France and England are "traditionally Catholic countries" (someone needs to tell him about Henry VIII...), they have been forced to recognize sharia as law. The growing number of Muslims in Europe threatens to overwhelm European civilization, he claimed.

"In just 22 years the number of Islamic immigrants has almost doubled. Can you see the magnitude of the problem?" he asked.

[Last modified: Sunday, June 9, 2013 6:02pm]


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