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Wed July 30, 2014
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Mid-State Group Outraged by Confederate Flag Removal

Confederate flags, seen here in the Statue Room above Robert E. Lee's tomb, were recently moved to a nearby museum.
Confederate flags, seen here in the Statue Room above Robert E. Lee's tomb, were recently moved to a nearby museum.
Credit Carol M. Highsmith (1946) / Library of Congress

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  The Middle Tennessee based Sons of Confederate Veterans is reacting with outrage to the removal of Confederate battle flags from the chapel where Confederate General Robert E. Lee is buried.

At the request of a student group, Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, recently removed the flags from the chapel above Lee’s crypt. The school says the flags will be moved to a nearby museum and that Confederate flags still adorn Lee’s tomb.

But the Columbia, Tennessee based Sons of Confederate Veterans this week issued a press statement calling the decision “narrow minded prejudice and knee-jerk bias.”

Former congressman and actor Ben Jones is a spokesman for the SVC.  He says the university’s decision does nothing but stir up bitterness.

“It was gratuitous, it was provocative, it was inflammatory, and it is an insult to my ancestors who did what they did in their time. I’m tired of the South being scape-goated by this new, politically correct crowd.”

In a letter to the university community in early July, Washington and Lee President Kenneth Ruscio called the museum an “appropriate place” to display the flags, where the “stories behind them can be properly told.”

President Ruscio's letter can be viewed here.

Here is the complete text of the SCV press release:

WASHINGTON, Va., July 29, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The Sons of Confederate Veterans, a heritage organization which represents approximately 30,000 male descendants of the Confederate States Army, has accused officials of Washington and Lee University inLexington, Virginia of "exhibiting the same kind of narrow minded prejudice and knee-jerk bias that has always been the enemy of brotherhood and understanding."

The group, known as the SCV, was created in 1896 and is based in Columbia, Tennessee. According to a statement released by the SCV's Chief of Heritage Operations Ben Jones, the recent removal of Confederate symbols from the burial place of General Robert E. Leewas a "breaking point for us. Our patience with this 'new McCarthyism' is exhausted."

Here is the complete statement:

"The New Bigots"

A recent event at Washington and Lee University has underscored the growing phenomenon of "South-bashing" in the media and in academia. At the behest of several young law students, that school's  President made a decision to remove two St. Andrews Cross battle flags from the Lee Chapel on the campus. Lee Chapel is the burial place ofRobert E. Lee, who led the Army of Northern Virginia. General Lee became President of what was then Washington College after the War Between the States and is generally credited with saving the school. The Chapel is a beloved and honored place to the more than 65 million Americans who are descended from those who fought for the South in that conflict.

The law students, who call themselves "The Committee", delivered an ultimatum to PresidentKenneth Ruscio threatening civil disobedience unless certain demands were met. One of those demands was the removal of Confederate symbols from the Chapel, saying that the Christian Cross flags made them feel "unwelcome". On July 8th, Ruscio announced that the flags would be removed from the Lee Chapel. We cannot fathom why anyone would attend a school named after Robert E. Lee and then say they were offended by the St. Andrews Cross flag. Nor we cannot fathom how anyone could take them seriously and cave in to their threats. But in the current climate of 'South bashing', such a radical act as this seems to be accepted as some sort of litmus test for the "politically correct police".

It appears that those who have a very simplistic view of American history have decided that the 150th anniversary of The Civil War is the right time to demonize the Southern culture, to intensify their vilification of Confederate heritage, and to continue to act as if their actions are some sort of moral crusade.

We who are of Confederate heritage honor our ancestors for their sacrifice, their perseverance and their astonishing courage against overwhelming odds. These men were our family, our kinfolks, and their blood runs in our veins. But the new bigots of political correctness are exhibiting the same kind of narrow minded prejudice and knee-jerk bias that has always been the enemy of brotherhood and understanding. This latest example is the breaking point for us. Our patience with this new McCarthyism is exhausted. These mean spirited attacks upon us come from the same sad place as do all racial, religious, and regional prejudices. They are rooted in an ignorance combined with a sense of superiority.

Over 50 years ago, that courageous Southerner Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "I have a dream that someday on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to dine together at the table of brotherhood." And that has happened. We have done that for decades now in the South, in great part because Dr. King did not qualify that dream or put asterisks on it.  He did not say that we would dine together in brotherhood only if we dishonored our ancestors or if our family could routinely be called bigots, traitors, and racists.  He was a far better and wiser man than that. He meant that we would dine together by accepting our past as it is and that we would understand each other by our shared culture of work and weather and food and music and memory.  That way we could strive together to heal the wounds of the past and thus build a proud and loving South, where folks are judged only by the content of their characters.

Slavery was not the sin of the South, but of the Nation. Chattel slavery existed throughout every colony and state for almost two centuries. Slavery was funded mainly by the Northern banks. The greatest profits went to the North. The North built the slave ships and manned them. The cotton also went North, to the vast textile mills in New England.  The North's complicity in prolonging and profiting from slavery is one of the best kept secrets of American history. The work of the slaves helped to build America, both North and  South. And yet the South has long been the scapegoat of these attacks from academia and the media.

The South is the fastest growing economic region in our nation. African-Americans are returning to the South in record numbers, finding a more traditional way of life here and according to many, better race relations.

It is long past the time for the new bigots of political correctness to get over their condescending sanctimony and to enter into the real world of brotherhood and fellowship. And it is time they understand that insulting our heritage is not the way to build bridges of progress.

Ben Jones
Chief of Heritage Operations
Sons of Confederate Veterans

SOURCE Sons of Confederate Veterans