Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

White-Rights Group Protests Rental Rejection by Shriners

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

White-Rights Group Protests Rental Rejection by Shriners

Article excerpt

The National Association for the Advancement of White People

thought it had cut a deal with Jacksonville's Shriners.

The white-rights group made a $1,000 deposit to reserve the

Morocco Shrine Auditorium for its summer convention. Then the

Shriners changed their minds.

Members of the white-rights group are so angry that they're

planning to burn a fez, the traditional tasseled Shriner

headgear, in protest. And they've sued.

They're asking a Jacksonville judge to force the Shriners to

host the June 21 convention. As many as a thousand supporters

were expected by the group at the St. Johns Bluff Road site to

hear speakers, attend an awards ceremony and socialize.

In a lawsuit filed last month in Circuit Court, the group also

demands that the Shriners pay at least $15,000 to cover damages

and promotional costs. No court date has been set.

The Shriners' attorney, John N. Bryant, said he'll ask Circuit

Judge Bernard Nachman to dismiss the lawsuit. The parties had no

written rental contract, Bryant said, and any semblance of an

agreement was voided in December, when the Shriners returned the

association's deposit on the $3,200 rental fee. The group had

plenty of time to find another location, Bryant said.

A Shriner employee accepted the deposit last fall, but Shriner

officials nixed the agreement in December "due to unforeseen

circumstances," according to a letter sent to the association.

"We worry about security with a group like this, which is very

controversial, and we don't want to do anything which would

reflect negatively on our mission, which is [supporting] 22

hospitals," Bryant said. ". . . A lot of them may be good

people, but they don't espouse the things we support."

The National Association for the Advancement of White People

promotes itself as a civil rights group that backs "equal rights

for all, special privileges for none." But some members espouse

racist and anti-Semitic views. …

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