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Charlotte Hospitality

Claim:   The 2012 Democratic National Convention declined to allow a religious group to donate gift baskets to delegates because of their stance on women's rights.

MIXTURE:

TRUE: The group Charlotte714 was denied an opportunity to distribute gift baskets to delegates at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
 
UNDETERMINED: The reason for the denial was that the group's stance on women's rights was contrary to the Democratic party platform.
 
FALSE: The Democratic National Convention sponsored a Muslim prayer event.
 
FALSE: Democratic convention delegates "booed God."

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, September 2012]

When the DNC came to Charlotte, area churches, 100 of them, offered hospitality, not knowing now much the Dems hate God and would actually boo God at the convention. They had no idea how that hatred would be directed at them and their churches.

The Sunday before the DNC, over 9000 people had come together to pray for the convention. Then, wanting to extend hospitality to the visitors to their city, 56 of the churches set out to “Adopt-a-Delegation.”

They put together gift baskets featuring Carolina Pralines and a letter welcoming them to the city and offering assistance in transportation, childcare or spiritual matters.

According to writer, Todd Starnes, The DNC banned the churches from distributing the gift baskets to delegates because, DNC said, the congregations hold values that are contrary to the party platform. Read that carefully.

David Benham, one of the organizers of the outreach said, “We were just trying to display Southern hospitality.” DNC officials, however, conveyed to city leaders that the Christians would not be allowed to present their gift baskets.

Even the Charlotte Mayor’s office jumped in to tell the churches not to participate, saying that their views on women’s rights are contrary to the platform. That’s right ... the same platform that booed God later.

Benham then asked if they could send welcome letters to the delegates. Again, the DNC refused, because, they said, “The churches hold pro-life values.”
The baskets did not contain a single political or pro-life message. They just wanted to give them regional candles and a welcome letter. The DNC refused to return numerous phone calls seeking comment.

But it gets worse. When a gathering of 200 Muslims showed up to pray for the convention, the Dems welcomed them with open arms and the liberal media gave extensive national coverage.

It is ironic that this day, in the shadow of that Islamic prayer event, we commemorate the greatest tragedy in American History, when Muslims attacked America on September 11, 2001, brutally killing thousands of innocent people.

Muslims who publicly state their hatred of our country with fierce determination to kill us all and put America under Sharia Law, are welcomed by the Democratic Party while Christians are pushed out of sight like criminals because they respect life and hold family values.

These are the same democrats who want you to vote them into office to direct the United States of America and every life from beginning to end. It is obvious that we must not let this happen.
 

Origins:   In September 2012, just before the opening of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Charlotte714 group (a collection of churches across the region which takes its name from the Biblical passage 2 Chronicles 7:14) held an assembly at that city's Verizon Wireless Amphitheater which drew an estimated 5,000 participants:
Thousands of socially conservative Christians gathered Sunday [Sept. 2] in northeast Charlotte to pray for a spiritual revival of the country, offering a emphatic counterpoint to a city gearing up for the Democratic National Convention.

Organizers said the afternoon of music, sermons and prayer drew an estimated 5,000 to Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.

If so, it dwarfed the number of demonstrators parading through uptown Sunday, an event for which the city has been planning for more than a year.

Charlotte714, which drew its name from a Bible verse that speaks to the power of God’s forgiveness, received support from more than 80 churches, organizers said. Buses brought some groups from out of state.

It was designed to be nonpartisan, but it was timed to lead into the DNC.

"The convention is an incredible platform for our cause," said David Benham, one of the organizers. “One church for the city speaking about the moral condition of our country.”

The gathering was by far the largest spiritual event on a day in which "the City of Churches," lived up to its billing.
A few days later, a FOX News & Commentary article by Todd Starnes reported that Charlotte714 representatives had been rebuffed in their efforts to distribute gift baskets to delegates attending the DNC:
The Democratic National Committee banned dozens of Charlotte churches from distributing gift baskets to delegates because the congregations hold values that are contrary to the party platform, according to local religious leaders.

"They told us our views on women’s rights are contrary to the Democratic party platform," said David Benham, the lead organizer of the Charlotte714.

He said 56 churches wanted to "Adopt-a-Delegation." They put together gift baskets featuring Carolina Pralines and a letter welcoming them to the city and offering assistance in transportation, childcare or spiritual matters.

"We were just trying to display Southern hospitality," he said. "We wanted them to know we were happy to serve them."

However, DNC officials conveyed to city leaders that the Christians would not be allowed to present their gift baskets.

"They responded back and said no because our views on women," he said. "They would not allow it."

Benham said it is true that all the churches are pro-life — but the baskets did not include a single political or pro-life message. They just wanted to give them regional candies and a welcome letter.

"The Democrats have spit in the face of God, they spit in the face of unborn children," Benham said. "They spit in the face of marriage. They are spitting in God’s face. Americans need to rise up and see to it they have their day and are escorted out of power in this country."
Several days later, Starnes' column was picked up as the subject of a blog entry by Rev. Austin Miles ("Dems Welcome Muslims, Prohibit Christian Hospitality in Charlotte!") which was circulated by e-mail and reproduced across the Internet as shown in the Example box above.

We contacted Jim Quick, Chief Marketing Officer at BENHAM Companies, for confirmation of this story, and he told us:
I personally worked with the Charlotte 2012 Host Committee and then was referred to DNC which refused us the ability to present gift baskets. David Benham, Chief Organizer of the Charlotte714 movement, and I worked for weeks with everyone one we knew trying to obtain mailing addresses so we could simply send the DNC delegates a small gift and welcome letter in lieu of physically presenting them a basket. This is when we worked with the mayor's office who received communication back from the DNC a second time indicating we did not share the DNC platform views on women's rights so therefore we would not be able to have the mailing list or present gift baskets.
However, Charlotte television station WCNC reported that the non-accommodation of Charlotte714's request had to do with logistics and not with any political or religious stance of the group:
"We received dozens of requests," said Josh Field, the spokesman for the local DNC host committee. "This wasn’t something out of the ordinary; with 6,000 delegates we couldn’t accommodate all the requests."

Field says the Host Committee events director and press secretary held a conference call with representatives of Charlotte 714, a group which claimed to represent 100 churches "and in the group's conversations with the Host Committee, no political or religious reasons were mentioned. It was logistics."

A spokesman for the Office of Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, Al Killeffer, responded:

"The Mayor's office did not receive any communication on the matter of gift baskets from Charlotte 714. The group's request to distribute gift baskets to delegates was handled by the Charlotte in 2012 Host Committee. The Host Committee received a number of offers to extend hospitality to delegates during the convention, and groups wishing to provide delegate gift baskets or bags, including Charlotte 714, were informed their requests could not be accommodated due to logistical challenges. They were thanked for their generosity and interest in participating."

In a series of e-mail replies to questions from WCNC-TV, David Benham, a principle organizer of the Charlotte 714 movement, said he received a text message from Charlotte Mayor Pro-Tem Patrick Cannon to say the DNC denied his request to send gift baskets "... because my (personal) views on women were contrary to the platform.”

"That’s totally been misconstrued," said Cannon, who said he was trying to help the churches get in touch with the host committee. "I don’t know enough about their position on women’s rights. That didn’t stem from me because I wouldn’t have known it." Under Charlotte’s "weak mayor" form of government, Patrick Cannon is elected at large as a member of Charlotte City Council and does not represent the Mayor’s office. "The Mayor’s office didn’t get involved," said Cannon.
I asked Jim Quick at BENHAM Companies whether he had received anything in writing that documented the DNC's purported reason for declining to allow the distribution of gift baskets at the convention; he mentioned a phone call with Mary Tribble, Chief of Event Planning for the Charlotte 2012 Host Committee, and conversations with Patrick Cannon, Charlotte Mayor Pro-Tem, but nothing in writing other than (since-deleted) text messages exchanged between David Benham and Patrick Cannon. (Mr. Quick did tell us that after he initially contacted Mary Tribble about distributing gift baskets to delegates, she returned his call and said that "the DNC had received multiple requests and that [if] they accommodated our request, then they would have to accommodate all of them.")

Other commentators have suggested that Charlotte714's request was denied because the group's ties to Operation Save America made providing physical access to delegates problematic:
So who is Charlotte714 and its founders? David Benham is the son of Flip Benham, formerly of Operation Rescue and currently the man behind Operation Save America and the effort to create "abortion-free" states.

Flip Benham created "wanted" posters of [abortion] providers and was convicted of stalking a Charlotte doctor who provided abortions. There is little wonder why his name would have been left out of the press materials for his sons' religious endeavor, especially as part of their "gift basket" request included asking for physical access to delegates and supporters.
In response, Jim Quick told us that:
When working with Mr. Cannon we relayed our flexibility. We would (a) leave the baskets at the delegates' hotels and they could receive them as they checked in, (b) Mail a gift to them via a 3rd party provider. We were not looking for addresses or access to the delegates.

Their father, Flip Benham, has a very high profile in the Charlotte area. I am aware of articles speculating on our connections to Operation Save America. I however cannot speculate on the reasons behind the refusal other than the official response back that our views on women's rights were contrary to the platform. Operation Save America (OSA) was not mentioned when the DNC's denial was passed onto us. [Neither] OSA nor any member of its organization was part of the organizing team for the Charlotte714 assembly in any way.
A few of the ancillary details in the Example item reproduced above are incorrect. It is not true that "when a gathering of 200 Muslims showed up to pray for the convention, the Dems welcomed them with open arms and the liberal media gave [it] extensive national coverage." The Jumah Congregational Prayer was not "welcomed by" the Democratic National Convention; it was one of hundreds of independent events staged in the Charlotte area timed to coincide with the DNC (over which the DNC had no control), and the circulation of a false rumor that it was an official DNC event is what prompted most of the news coverage about it.

It is also not true that DNC delegates "booed God"; they instead booed the outcome of a procedural issue when the results of a floor vote were seemingly ignored by the chair. As the New York Daily News reported of the incident that gave rise to this rumor:
The Democratic leadership was inserting two changes into the platform: One to assert that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, one to put the words "God-given" back into the opening of the document.

The chair, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, asked whether the changes — which, it should be noted, had the strong support of the President — should be adopted. He listened for the required two-thirds "Aye" voice vote from the floor. What he heard was much closer to a fifty-fifty split. He asked for another voice voice and heard the same split.

Then, disregarding these votes, he announced, in the opinion of the chair, the "Aye"s had the two-thirds majority — clearly untrue to anyone watching and listening.

And so, the "Nay"s booed the procedure, which asked them for their opinion and then ignored it.

They did not boo Jerusalem. They did not boo God.
Video of the incident bears out this version of events — the delegates did not boo when the amendments referencing Jerusalem and God were introduced, they did not boo when those amendments were seconded, they did not boo during any of the three voice votes on those amendments. They booed only at the conclusion of the entire process, to express their displeasure with the chairman for clearly ignoring the outcome of the vote:


Last updated:   26 September 2012

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Sources:

    Campanile, Carl.   "Cardinal Sin: Bam Blew Off DNC Blessing."
    The New York Post.   24 August 2012.

    Cusido, Carmen.   "Muslims to Host Events During DNC; Up to 20,000 Could Attend."
    The Charlotte Observer.   2 July 2012.

    Gordon, Michael.   "5,000 Faithful Fill Verizon for Pre-DNC Prayer Revival."
    The Charlotte Observer.   3 September 2012.

    Greenman, Josh.   "No, Nobody Booed God or Jerusalem."
    [New York] Daily News.   5 September 2012.

    Marrapodi, Eric.   "Dolan to Pray at Democratic National Convention."
    CNN.   28 August 2012.

    Starnes, Todd.   "DNC Rejects Christian Gift Baskets."
    FoxNews.com.   5 September 2012.

    Watson, Stuart.   "Democrats Dispute 'Dems Hate God' Chain Email."
    The Charlotte Observer.   26 September 2012.