Anti-Islam billboard banned in U.S. refugee hotspot

By Leo Hohmann


Somali refugees get ready to meet with city officials in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Somali refugees get ready to meet with city officials in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Many small- to medium-sized cities on the receiving end of Muslim refugees in recent years have seen a growing backlash against the United Nations/U.S. State Department-sponsored resettlement program.

Pockets of resistance have broken out in South Carolina, Idaho, Minnesota, North Dakota, parts of Michigan and Texas.

Minnesota has been destination number-one for United Nations-selected Somali refugees, more than 115,000 of whom have been permanently resettled in the U.S. since 1990.

But one person’s idea to start a billboard campaign against the steady influx of Muslims into Minnesota got shot down just days after it took flight.

A billboard popped up in the St. Cloud area of Stearns County this week that read “Catholic Charities Resettles Islamists: EVIL or INSANITY?”

Within a “few days” the billboard message was wiped clean, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

Threat of lawsuit reported

Sources tell WND that Catholic Charities threatened to sue billboard owner Franklin Advertising Co., which agreed to take down the message even though it had a contract with an unidentified advertiser.

The local Catholic Charities office in St. Cloud complained that the sign was inaccurate because their particular branch of the Catholic organization has not placed any Muslim refugees in St. Cloud.

That’s technically correct. It’s actually Lutheran Social Services that has been paid by the federal government to bring Muslims to St. Cloud. But Catholic Charities is not off the hook when it comes to statewide resettlements of Muslims in Minnesota, says Ann Corcoran, a refugee watchdog who blogs at Refugee Resettlement Watch.

Corcoran tweeted a picture of the sign Thursday.


She said Catholic Charities is splitting hairs, trying to confuse the issue when it clearly does resettle Muslim refugees in Minnesota.

“It is accurate that Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis do resettle Somali Muslims in the state,” Corcoran says. “And a shocking number of their ‘youths’ have gone on to become international jihadists, so for the whole state of Minnesota the sign’s message is accurate.”

Catholic Charities was one of three phony nonprofits (federal contractors) that first brought Somali Muslims to Minnesota beginning in the 1980s, Corcoran said. The federal government pays them  $1,950 for every refugee they bring to the U.S. — about 60 percent of that goes to the refugee and they get to keep the rest. On top of the per-head fee, federal contractors like Catholic Charities and LSS also rake in millions in government grants in return for providing myriad services to the refugees.

More than two dozen young Somalis have left Minnesota since 2007 to go fight for either al-Shabab in Somalia or the Islamic State in Syria, the FBI has confirmed. Dozens of other Somali refugees in the U.S. have been convicted of providing material support to overseas terrorist organizations.

Cracking down on free speech

Bob Enos, a resident of the St. Cloud area, said he finds the billboard company’s decision to remove the message to be a blatant censorship of free speech.

“This sign was no more inappropriate than political billboards that take an attack stance on an opponent,” Enos told WND. “This episode is yet one more affront to the First Amendment. It’s not a community standards issue. It’s a public debate issue, and if the taxpayers can participate in a national debate, it’s ridiculous to think it can’t be a community debate as well.”

WND’s calls to Franklin Advertising Thursday were not immediately returned.

Ron Branstner, another resident of the area, said political correctness has a stranglehold on Minnesota, and Islam is one of the untouchables. Debate only goes so far before the Council on American-Islamic Relations steps in and shuts down any semblance of free and open discussion.

CAIR is a Muslim civil rights organization that has been tied to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in court documents filed in the Holy Land Foundation terror-financing trial in 2007-08.

Branstner said he recently attended a town-hall meeting at St. Cloud State University that was supposed to offer a dialogue about the influx of Somali refugees.

“They brought in a guy from CAIR and I walked up with my question and handed it to them and it was put in the bottom of the pile,” he said. “They had all their questions pre-planned. I told them it was interesting you talk about dialogue and you have everything pre-planned. There ain’t no dialogue here. Everything is pre-planned and CAIR is at every event. CAIR runs this city. Everything that happens, CAIR is right there.”

Lutherans invite imams to share Islam

Many Lutheran churches in Minnesota offer their pulpits to imams in an effort to show solidarity and Christian love.

Lutheran Social Services Minnesota has a program called “My Neighbor is Muslim” in which Islam is promoted in churches as a “religion of devotion to God and peace,” according to the LSS website.

Jodi Harpstead, CEO of Lutheran Social Services Minnesota
Jodi Harpstead, CEO of Lutheran Social Services Minnesota

Jodi Harpstead, CEO of Lutheran Social Services Minnesota, had this to say on the agency’s website about welcoming Muslims:

“The American popular press has been filled with news of the ‘war on terror’ with negative characterizations of Muslim people. Though devout Muslims have tried to counter the media with reminders that Islam is a religion of devotion to God and peace among neighbors, those voices are sometimes hard to hear.

“We are offering a resource to our church, and to anyone else who would like to use it, to help learn the basic tenets of Islam and understand our new neighbors.

“Our intention is simply that this resource will open doors, minds, and hearts and dispel stereotypes and myths about Muslim neighbors just enough to start more conversations. I am touched by the stories of Christians who are inviting Muslim imams into dialogue, accepting the invitation to participate in iftar dinners during Ramadan, and hosting community multicultural celebrations.

“We hope you can also use this resource to spread goodness and welcome Muslim neighbors to your community.”

Branstner said Somalis are welcomed in Minnesota but are not held accountable for their poor record of assimilation or the high cost of their welfare dependency. Anyone who questions them on this or any other issue is automatically deemed an “Islamophobe” by CAIR and its supporters.

“They bring in a Muslim to have dialogue, and then when you confront them on the issues, they suddenly stop the dialogue,” he said.

U.N. sends 91,000 Somali Muslims to U.S. since 9/11

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans, the United Nations and U.S. State Department have worked together to deliver 91,057 Somali Muslims to dozens of U.S. cities and towns from Alaska to the East Coast of New Jersey. But  Minnesota has received the most Somali refugees of any state, at 14,820 or 16 percent of the total since the 9/11 attacks, according to the federal refugee database.

And not all have been sent to the big cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The city of St. Cloud has received more than its fair share, according to some residents who say the Somalis have worn out their welcome. The city, with an estimated population of just over 65,000, has been on the receiving end of 1,450 Somali refugees, most of them arriving within the last eight years.

But that number doesn’t include so-called “secondary migration” of Somalis who were originally sent to other U.S. cities but ended up moving to St. Cloud.

Corcoran said Catholic Charities’ attempt at censorship may have backfired as the residents of St. Cloud continue their resistance.

“How many passersby saw this sign in Stearns County before it was removed compared to how many will see it now that Catholic Charities forced its removal?” she wrote. “Help get this story out far and wide!”

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