A controversial author, who was recently banned from entering the United Kingdom, is among the guest speakers at a conference being put on by the Napa-based Kolbe Academy Home School.
Robert Spencer served as the director of Kolbe Academy’s national home-school program in the 1990s. He also taught high school history, literature and religion at the Napa campus.
The Kolbe Academy Home School program is a separate legal entity, with separate management, from Kolbe Academy & Trinity Prep — the pre-K-12 school located off Redwood Road.
Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch, a controversial blog that mainly covers terrorism and violence committed by Muslims. He has also written several books, including “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)” and “Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t.”
Mary Rowles, director of the Kolbe Academy Home School program, confirmed Thursday that Spencer is scheduled to speak at the Northern California Catholic Family Home School Conference taking place July 26 and 27 in Sacramento.
He was invited to speak, Rowles said, because of his background in education — specifically classical education. While at the home-school program, Spencer wrote a booklet titled “Classical Education in the Contemporary World.”
“ We felt that he was uniquely qualified to speak to a home-schooling audience regarding classical and Ignatian education,” Rowles said.
While known for his expertise in education, it is Spencer’s work on Islam that has caught attention across the globe.
Last week the British government issued a letter to Spencer stating that he could not enter the U.K. because his presence there “is not conducive to the public good.”
The letter stated that Jihad Watch has been “widely criticized for being Islamaphobic” and that Spencer also co-founded the groups Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America, which have both been described as “anti-Muslim hate groups.”
“The Home Secretary has reached this decision because you have brought yourself within the scope of the list of unacceptable behaviours by making statements that may foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK,” stated the letter from the U.K.’s Home Office, the lead agency overseeing immigration and passports, drug policy, crime, counterterrorism and the police.
Spencer posted the letter to Jihad Watch on Wednesday under the title “Britain capitulates to jihad.”
The editor-in-chief of Aslan Media, who is also a researcher at Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, wrote a letter published in the Register last week urging Kolbe Academy to rescind Spencer’s invitation to speak. The letter writer, Nathan Lean, said Spencer’s work on Islam is “imbalanced” and focuses “entirely on violence.”
In an email to the Register, Spencer said Lean has a “peculiar and obsessive fixation” with his work. Spencer also disputed any claims that his writings involve “hate speech.”
“My work is dedicated to defending the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and the equality of rights of all people before the law,” Spencer wrote. “My work is factual and I stand ready to defend any assertion I've made in 12 books, hundreds of articles, and thousands of blog posts.”
Spencer said that he is not “anti-Muslim.”
“Muslims who oppose jihad terror are invited and welcome to stand with me,” Spencer wrote, adding, “I do not retail falsehoods or disparage anyone; if my work in opposing an oppressive ideology is hateful, then so were those who fought the Nazis.”
Rowles said Kolbe Academy Home School was aware of Jihad Watch when they invited him to attend the conference.
“In taking a look at his blog, it was our observation that it appears to be primarily a collection of news stories on violent actions by Muslims, quotes from Muslims that call for violence, quotes from the Quran that call for violence and the like,” Rowles said. “We saw nothing that appeared to be a call for violence against Muslims, and nothing on his site struck us as ‘hate speech’ — rather, it appeared more to be a pretty standard type of Internet reporting that focuses on culling relevant information related to a specific topic.”
The conference will take place at St. Stephen the First Martyr Parish in Sacramento. As a parish of the Diocese of Sacramento, St. Stephen’s is subject to Bishop Jaime Soto.
The Diocese of Santa Rosa has no direct affiliation with the Kolbe Academy Home School program and has no jurisdiction over the conference.
“We take obedience to our bishops very seriously, and should Bishop Soto wish to speak with us regarding the conference, we are of course happy to listen,” Rowles said.