WILMINGTON, Del. -- A rebranded arm of the Ku Klux Klan plans to meet Friday in Elkton, Md., attempting to attract new members.
The Confederate White Knights of Rosedale, Md., says on its website that its message is no longer based on skin color.
But its criteria for membership demands that joiners not be affiliated with either Jewish or Muslim faiths. They also must be "100% heterosexual," of European heritage and born in America.
The group was granted permission meet inside the Cecil County Administration Building in Elkton.
But officials there are not embracing the group's presence, especially since Klan activity in Cecil had diminished in recent years.
Community leaders have been focused on projecting a positive message to draw new businesses to the county, said Bonnie Grady, president and CEO of the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce. And while its unknown what this sort of meeting would do to discourage business or visitors, it's not welcomed attention.
"I don't necessarily subscribe to the notion that any press is good press," she said. "Cecil County is striving to be inclusive and welcoming."
Members of the Confederate White Knights could not reached for comment Thursday.
But in an interview on the website CecilDaily.com, Richard Preston, imperial wizard of the 2-year-old group, said the meeting will focus on illegal immigration and President Barack Obama.
"Barack Hussein Obama is an illegal president," Preston was quoted as saying. "He needs to be removed from office. We also want 'Obamacare' shut down. It's against citizen's rights."
"On top of that, we want the laws toughened on immigration," he added. "We're flooded with illegal immigrants and our people can't find jobs."
Confederate White Knights organizers told a local newspaper they chose to hold the meeting in Cecil County because of its "conservative mindset."
Al Wein, Cecil's director of administration, cited Constitutional reasons for permission to use the meeting room.
"The First Amendment recognizes the right of organizations such as the applicant to peacefully assemble and to engage in free speech, even when the message is offensive," he said in a statement. "The First Amendment also prohibits local government from discriminating against an organization's right of free speech and assembly on public property, no matter how offensive the message may be.
"As custodian of facilities owned by the citizens, the County has a legal duty to make those facilities available for the exercise of First Amendment rights, free from threats or violence. Peaceful and ordered use of the County's meeting room by the applicant is consistent with the exercise of legally protected speech and assembly, and is not an endorsement of the applicant, or its message, by Cecil County, Md."
Cecil County President Robert Hodge said he plans not to attend the meeting at the county-owned building because he did not want to give the group more publicity.
"Don't give them the time of day," Hodge said. "Let them talk to themselves."
He encouraged others to do the same.
"If they don't get publicity, if they don't get controversy, then they are not going to survive," he said. "I believe they live off of that – controversy and publicity. That's what they are doing this for. That's their goal."
Hodge doubted many people would show up at the event.
The group held a "rally" in September at Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg, Md., according to a Baltimore Sun report. Only eight Klansmen attended.