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Tenn. tea party event won't drop speaker denounced by national Muslim group over Islam views

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tea party organizers will not drop a speaker from a Tennessee convention this weekend despite calls from a national Muslim rights group that considers her anti-Islamic.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations had urged that Pamela Geller be cut from the Tennessee Tea Party Convention in Gatlinburg over her views on Muslims. Washington-based CAIR said in a release Thursday that it objects to Pamela Geller's presentation titled "The Threat of Islam."

Convention organizer Anthony Shreeve said in an e-mail Friday that Geller will speak despite those concerns.

"We will not follow any request from CAIR," Shreeve said. "We also believe in the right to freedom of speech as given to us by our U.S. Constitution."

Geller heads a group called Stop Islamization of America.

"CAIR is trying to get good, decent Americans in the Tennessee Tea Party to crush free speech by dropping me," Geller wrote on her blog.

The Gatlinburg meeting has been organized by a coalition of more than 30 tea party groups around the state that chafed at the goals and price tag of a national tea party convention held in Nashville in February.

The registration fee for the Gatlinburg event is $30, while the Nashville event that featured a speech by former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin cost $549.

Grass roots activists have criticized Nashville event organizer Judson Phillips' leadership of the Tea Party Nation for being too closely tied with the Republican Party and for designating the group a for-profit organization.

Phillips' group has scheduled a "National Tea Party Unity Convention" in Las Vegas in July.

The Gatlinburg meeting features a keynote speech from U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and a debate among Tennessee gubernatorial candidates.