James Lafferty and the Virginia Anti-Shariah Taskforce (VAST)

James Lafferty and the Virginia Anti-Shariah Taskforce (VAST)

The Virginia Anti-Sharia Taskforce is headed by James Lafferty, whose wife Andrea Sheldon Lafferty runs the Traditional Values Coalition.  Lafferty is also a board member of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer’s hate group SIOA.  At this point, we don’t know a great deal about the group.

The ADL has a backgrounder titled Stop Islamization of America: Allies which notes that Geller and Spencer have cultivated strategic relationships with a network of like-minded individuals and organizations in the U.S and abroad that enable them to reach broader audiences and expand their activity.  The ADL includes James Lafferty in the section on “key domestic allies” and says:

James Lafferty is an SIOA board member and chairman and founder of the Virginia Anti-Shariah Taskforce (VAST), a coalition of anti-Shariah, anti-Muslim people committed to stopping the spread of Shariah in Virginia and across the U.S. Geller has called Lafferty “an early warrior to the fight, a pioneer in activism against Islamic supremacism.” Geller has also acknowledged on her blog that Lafferty was one of the first to enter the fight against Islamization in America.

According to Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch

Last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, James Lafferty of the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force spoke at Pamela Geller’s panel opposing the construction of mosques and the supposed threat of sharia law in the U.S. and bragged that while attending a hate crimes summit convened by the Department of Justice he watched “pictures of some mosque somewhere, and it was usually in the South I’m proud to say where a guy would drive a pickup truck right into the mosque.”

Today in her WorldNetDaily column, Geller responded to the “anti-freedom, pro-jihad left” for trying to “twist the meaning of remarks by one of our speakers, James Lafferty.” She then included a short statement to “set the record straight” saying that he “does not condone ore encourage nay criminal act or vandalism against any mosque” and believes in the free exercise of religion:

I have been organizing events at CPAC since I first brought Geert Wilders to the conservative confab back in 2009, but this was our most powerful one yet. The only coverage of our landmark event in defense of freedom, however, was from the anti-freedom, pro-jihad left. Islamic supremacists and their quisling apologists in the leftist media immediately tried to twist the meaning of remarks by one of our speakers, James Lafferty. They accused Lafferty, founder and chairman of the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force, of applauding the destruction of mosques. Lafferty set the record straight in a statement he sent me: “I do not condone or encourage any criminal act or vandalism against any mosque. I am a firm believer in the rule of law and the protections our Constitution provides for the free exercise of religion – and that means all religions.”

But this brief statement does nothing to “set the record straight,” and doesn’t even come close to addressing what Lafferty said at the panel.

Lafferty may have released a statement saying he doesn’t “condone or encourage” vandalism after the video of him was released, but Lafferty in his statement in no way explains how his statement didn’t express his pride in the fact that his home region of the South is where a preponderance of attacks on mosques take place.

In 2011, Brian Tashman also reported

This November a coalition of anti-Muslim and Religious Right groups are hosting “The Constitution or Sharia—Preserving Freedom Conference” in Nashville, Tennessee, dubbed “the first national conference on Sharia and the Islamization of America.” The location does not seem to be coincidental: the Tennessee legislature recently weighed a bill that would make it a felony to follow Sharia law and the town of Murfreesboro, just south of Nashville, has witnessed vicious anti-Muslim attacks and arson against a planned mosque. A lawsuit against the mosque declared that Islam is not a religion and therefore Muslims do not deserve First Amendment protections.  Presidential candidate Herman Cain went to Murfreesboro to condemn the planned mosque as an “abuse of our freedom of religion,” before declaring that municipalities have a right to ban mosques.

The summit features panels on issues such as “Fighting Islamist Propaganda in the Media,” “Grassroots Organizing Against Sharia and Rabats (including Mega-Mosques),” and “Defending Liberty In Legislatures.” The chief sponsor of the event is the extremist media outlet WorldNetDaily and speakers include a mix of the usual anti-Muslim activists including Robert Spencer, Frank Gaffney and Pamela Geller, along with Religious Right leaders who have consistently attacked the rights of Muslims such as Jay Sekulow, Mat Staver, Andrea and Jim Lafferty, E.W. Jackson and William Murray. Michele Bachmann is listed an invited speaker but has not been confirmed:

• Pamela Geller of Stop Islamization of America and Atlas Shrugs

• Robert Spencer of Stop Islamization of America and Jihad Watch

• Jay Sekulow of American Center for Law and Justice

• Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel

• William J. Murray of Religious Freedom Coalition and No 911 Mosque

• Frank Gaffney of Center for Security Policy

• Christopher Holton of Center for Security Policy

• Lou Ann Zelenik of Tennessee Freedom Coaltion

• Andrea Lafferty of Traditional Values Coalition

• James Lafferty of Virginia Anti-Sharia Task Force

• Barrister Paul Diamond, United Kingdom

• Father Keith Roderick

• Bishop Earl W. Jackson

• Fred Grandy - Actor and former congressman

• Wafa Sultan

• Rev. Dr. Mark Durie, Australia

Lou Ann Zelenik is best known for the malicious anti-Muslim themes in her unsuccessful campaign for Congress last year, which focused on stopping the Murfreesboro mosque development. E.W. Jackson is currently relying heavily on anti-Muslim rhetoric in his bid for U.S. Senate in Virginia.

This won’t be the first time Religious Right leaders and anti-Muslim activists have come together at a major event, and anti-Muslim activists have started appearing frequently on Christian conservative radio outlets.

With another gathering set to demonize Muslims and hype fears of “creeping Sharia,” the Religious Right’s ostensible commitment to religious freedom yet again doesn’t translate into freedom for non-Christian faiths.

For example, notice the involvement of “William J. Murray of Religious Freedom Coalition and No 911 Mosque.” As Kyle noted last year in a post about Murray, the Religious Freedom Coalition is “dedicated to the equality of all mankind and the freedom of religious expression” but is also running a campaign determined to stop Muslims from having those same rights by trying to block the construction of the Park 51 Islamic Community Center. The center opened last week without protests, and so far, Lower Manhattan is not under the rule of Sharia law.

Lafferty was also involved in devious attacks on David Ramadan when he ran for a seat on the Virginia State Assembly. 

Well known hate groups, the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force (VAST) and the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) both claim to have jointly “monitored” the 2012 ISNA convention, and they provided a false narrative that was widely spread by the Islamophobia echo chamber.  ISNA provides a response to their claims HERE

VAST and the ISNA Convention 2012

Pamela Geller posted an article on the ISNA convention which she characterizes as a Muslim Brotherhood convention. 

She quotes John Guandolo’s views about ISNA to back this up, and he regurgitates the same two talking points the Islamophobia echo chamber always brings up - Muslim Brotherhood Document and unindicted co-conspirator.  She includes a report on the conference introduced as

Here is the official TVC/VAST report on the Hamas-linked Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) convention, by an eyewitness who managed to get in:

  VAST is James Lafferty’s Virginia anti-Sharia Task Force VAST.  James Lafferty: Lafferty is the founder and chairman of VAST, whose stated purpose is to oppose the “implementation of the radical, barbaric and anti-Constitutional Shariah law in Virginia or anywhere in America.”  Lafferty, who is a board member of Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative, is also the husband of Andrea Lafferty. Andrea Lafferty is the president of the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), a religious right group that recently has also jumped on the anti-Islamic bandwagon. (The Southern Poverty Law Center lists TVC as a hate group based on its false propaganda about LGBT people.)

The organization has created a new grassroots campaign called “The Task Force to Stop Shariah Law in America.” According to one of the latest TVC fundraising letters, the group seeks to “ban Radical Islam’s Shariah Law in every state in America.” Rev. Lou Sheldon, TVC’s founder and chairman, claims in one of the enclosures in the fundraising packet that radical Islam is “subverting our Constitution” and will place “you and your family under Shariah Law.” Also in the packet is a “survey” asking if respondents are aware that the Shariah takeover plot is already in full swing.

Since about 35,000 people “managed to get in” to the ISNA convention, these folks abilities are not particularly noteworthy.  Their observation skills are also not particularly noteworthy.  They comment only on sessions or speakers who expressed a view they disagreed with. 

Mike German of the ACLU, and Rabia Chaudry of the Center for Muslim Christian Understanding (and an attorney) were strongly criticized for informing participants that they have a right to have an attorney present when speaking to law enforcement.  James Zogby was criticized for his positions on the Israeli-Palestinian situation, and his disagreement with the DNC reinstating language recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Conference speakers were criticized for not giving the same estimates for the number of Muslims in America.  Various speakers estimated 2-3 million to 7 million, which TVC/VAST characterized as fitting the numbers to “suit the argument they were making at the moment” (lying).  The reality is that no one has concrete numbers.

TVC/VAST gave their very subjective view of the 3 key messages of the convention: 1) what to do when confronted about the facts concerning Islam’s campaign to dominate the West; 2) Continue the barrage of attacks on the most effective law enforcement agencies (FBI, NYPD, etc.) and challenge their efforts to stop the use of non-profit front groups to launder American dollars on their way to arming and supplying front-line terrorists here and in other countries; 3) Continuing efforts to affect official Washington while recognizing that local police and government officials may be a more fertile ground for winning greater control.


Islamophobic Smears of ISNA Convention 2012 Rely on Deception and Hate http://straightrecord.org/2012/09/islamophobic-smears-of-isna-convention-2012-rely-on-deception-and-hate/

Right-Wing Reaction to New York Marriage Court Case http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/right-wing-reaction-new-york-marriage-court-case

Stalwart Reagan Conservative Ed Meese Condemns ‘Fringe Group’ Of Anti-Muslim Activists, Eli Clifton http://thinkprogress.org/security/2012/01/31/415180/edwin-meese-condemns-islamophobic-activists/

TVC’s religious test http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/tvc%E2%80%99s-religious-test

Tweets from anti-Islam conference in Dearborn http://live.freep.com/Event/Tweets_from_anti-Islam_conference_in_Dearborn