This week the Stonewall Brigade of the Sons of Confederate Veterans learned that they will not be allowed to use the Lee Chapel on the campus of Washington & Lee University for their annual celebration of Lee-Jackson Day. A spokesman for the school made it very clear as to why:
Hosting the program is no longer an appropriate use of Lee Chapel, W&L spokesmen Brian Eckert said, in light of the “distortion, misstatements and inflammatory language” the school has endured from members of the organization upset with its decision last year to remove Confederate flags from part of the chapel.
“The persistent name-calling, vilification and uncivil attacks in messages to the university, letters to the editors of local newspapers and social media postings have persuaded us that our original intent to make the chapel available would not be appropriate,” Eckert said. “We simply are not going to allow our own facilities to be used as a place from which those attacks can be made.”
The unrest stems in large part from moves made last summer by the school, after a group of six law students who called themselves “The Committee” complained that Confederate flags hanging in the chapel were offensive to minority students. University President Kenneth Ruscio later announced that replica flags in the building would be removed because they were not being presented in an educational manner. But the school left room for authentic, historic Confederate flags in the chapel’s museum.
Smoldering anger over that decision was stoked by the recent national controversy that erupted when a man charged in a mass shooting at South Carolina church was seen in photographs embracing the Confederate battle flag. The application by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to use Lee Chapel next year was made in the aftermath of that event. One email to Ruscio provided by the school this week contained in the subject line: “A CRIME IS GOING TO BE COMMITTED.”
Another message on social media stated: “I, personally, would like to take the members of the ‘committee’ to the woods around Lexington and introduce the members, individually, to certain trees and have them ‘decorate’ those trees with their presence. Then the members of the ‘committee’ would know what I think of their ultimatum.” “May you and the 6 idiots burn in hell,” another missive read. The messages were from people who identified themselves as members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Eckert said.
Of course the SCV denies these charges.
If you want to know why communities and other institutions across the South are distancing themselves from Confederate iconography look no further than the very organizations who claim to defend it. They SCV got exactly what it deserves.