The invitation above appeared in the mailboxes of some East Aurora voters this week, courtesy Assemblyman David DiPietro.
Two of the guest speakers at the forum are well known names: Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard and Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns, who both won election last fall on the Republican and Conservative party lines. The other, Max Tresmond, is an attorney in the father-and-son Tresmond Law Firm; his father, James, filed a lawsuit in 2013, shortly after the SAFE Act became law, arguing it is unconstitutional.
The venue is East Aurora Wesleyan Church, where DiPietro and his wife are members, according to DiPietro’s Assembly profile.
While churches, as tax-exempt organizations, are banned from participating in political campaigns on behalf of particular candidates or parties, they are permitted to engage in voter education efforts—to host debates and forums, for example—so long as the efforts are nonpartisan.
The subject of the forum seems, in part, overtly political (“the fight to repeal the SAFE Act!”) and, in part, informational (i.e. “information on Pistol Recertification”). Certainly, though, the panelists are all partisan: Howard has said he would not compel his sheriffs to enforce the state’s gun control laws; Kearns and DiPietro have made criticism of the SAFE Act planks in their political platforms; and Tresmond’s firm brought a lawsuit that sought to overturn the SAFE Act, and has handled other SAFE Act-related cases, always representing the interests of gun owners.
A call for comment from the church’s pastor, Rich Nightingale, was not immediately returned. When it is, we’ll add his response here.