Upstate Conservative Coalition event relocating over controversial speaker

Saratoga County

The Washington Monument is seen in the background as pro-Trump protesters break through barriers onto the grounds of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

WILTON, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A conservative political event planned in Wilton on Wednesday, August 25 was postponed to Tuesday, August 31 due to a COVID infection, according to the Saratoga County Republican Committee. But now, the Saratoga-Wilton Elks Lodge—the venue where the event was scheduled—says it won’t be held there anymore.

While the Lodge supports worthwhile public causes such as voter registration drives, it can neither approve nor in any way support the use of its premises by individuals espousing beliefs contrary to the cardinal principles of our Order.

Elks Lodge No. 161 announced that when members learned that Scott Presler was invited to speak at the meeting, they asked event organizers to find an alternative location. Elks members said they were “surprised and shocked” to find out that the Upstate Conservative Coalition had invited Presler, a controversial conservative voice.

“The cardinal principles of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America are Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love, and Fidelity,” reads the announcement. “The Saratoga-Wilton Elks hold that such beliefs advocated by Mr. Presler are contrary to one or more of the cardinal principles of our Order. Our Lodge has therefore respectfully communicated to the Upstate Conservative Coalition that Scott Presler is not welcome on our premises.”

The announcement from the Elks Lodge said members were not consulted by the Coalition about inviting Presler. The Elks also said that their order is nonpolitical.

“We have spoken with the Elks and accept and respect their decision,” the Coalition said in a statement to NEWS10.

According to the Associated Press, Presler, a gay Republican, was previously the lead activism strategist for ACT for America from February 2017 to 2018. The organization, based in Virginia Beach, is identified by the Anti-Defamation League as the largest anti-Muslim group in America. The group reportedly spreads conspiracy theories about Muslims and “stokes irrational fears” of them. The Southern Poverty Law Center also labels Act for America as an “extremist hate group.”

Groups also take issue with Presler over the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. “Presler’s reported role in supporting the January 6 insurrection is enough to disqualify him from being offered a credible speaking platform,” said Robert S. McCaw, director of the government affairs department at the Muslim civil rights group CAIR.

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