Sons of Confederate Veterans Kicked Out of Lee Chapel

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.

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42 comments… add one
  • DTC Oct 11, 2017 @ 7:57

    Internal migration patterns being what they are in the United States, I am a daughter of both the North and the South. Both sides of my immediate family ended up in Arkansas–either just before or immediately after the Civil War, depending on the line.

    I have one ancestor who trailed into Arkansas in the late 1840s, at the end of a three-generation-long journey from Connecticut. As the Civil War ramped up in the Arkansas hill country, he had no sympathy for either slavery or the “Southern cause.” He joined the Arkansas Peace Society, clearly demonstrating his lack of Confederate patriotism, and was subsequently arrested and forcibly conscripted into the Confederate Army. His stay was short, not even time enough to earn a second entry on his official war record. He absconded North and may have been active in a Union militia group in Missouri. The record gets fuzzy after he left Arkansas. Despite all this, he HAD a provable Confederate service record, and he is remembered among most of my family contemporaries (what can I say? I’m old) for his courageous service to the South—not for his actual refusal to serve.

    Another ancestor, an officer in an Alabama regiment during “The War,” resettled in Arkansas shortly after the conflict ended. He served actively and acquired a distinguished record, but since he did not carry the family name, his service is hardly remembered among my contemporaries. “History” is often either wrong or unjust in its own strange ways.

    So what’s my point? Just this: All the popular discourse over the nature of the “Southern cause” and the “Southern way of life” has been colored by the political objectives of the postwar era, just as much as it was by the war itself. The aftermath of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow rewrote the past, developing a new set of mythologies to suit the political climate—and the egos—of the defeated Southern rebellion.
    In white families like mine, being Southern became more important than owning, or even knowing, the truth around the causes and consequences of the Civil War. Those mythologies have created “history” in a form that glorifies “the Southern way of life,” complete with an almost worshipful dedication to those who led the “heroic” resistance against “Northern oppression.”

    It is not “history” that supporters of memorials and statues to Southern heroes are trying to save. What they are really trying to save is a self-serving mythology constructed by generations of white Southerners who have sought to glorify “Southern rights”–and incidentally to discount the inequities and iniquities inherent in the institution of slavery.

    It’s long past time for a “come to Jesus moment” among white Southerners. The Civil War was about slavery, and the “lost cause” was the effort to preserve it. The problem is, that’s not a terribly honorable basis for preserving the glorious tradition of the southern way of life. We white Southerners have our pride. God help us.

  • Sandi Saunders Aug 20, 2015 @ 17:05

    I agree that there can be no sympathy for the SCV or their supporters because they have indeed brought this on themselves. The comments made on newspaper forums and Facebook when the students asked for the flags to be removed was horrific, racist, cruel, ignorant and stupid. The flaggers and their friends the white supremacists have only made it all worse.

    There are plenty of Southerners who do have some sympathy for the soldier on the fields at Gettysburg and Antietam of the 50 major, and those of the “10,500 battles, engagements, and other military actions” in all. I can see honoring them, wanting to recognize their bravery at a time when battle was so close, vicious and bloody and against fellow Americans. With casualties over 620 thousand how do you do it?

    How do you “celebrate” what for most sane people is a true and horrific American tragedy? With solemnity, dignity, reverence and decorum? Or with party like rallies, miles long flag parades whooping it up on stops and re-enactments with “wanted” posters of Lincoln? With sites naming the soldiers and telling about their families and history, videos of the battlefields and discussions of their letters, or with “in your face” confrontation and dismissal of any view except “the South gonna rise again”?

    And how, for the sake of decency and integrity do you just dismiss the racist use of that battle flag almost from the moment the war ended? How do you discard why the white supremacy groups to this day use that flag as their symbol too? When did it go from the banner of the fallen soldier to the banner of redneck bullies churning up the grass in a field or screeching in a parking lot? How does it go from a Civil War cemetery to the side of the road with a gun on one hip and the flag on the other? How do we ever reconcile the uses? How do you tell a racist with the flag from a “good-ole boy” with the flag and does it matter?

    Clearly and beyond any doubt, these folks are their own worst enemies. They cannot go long without proving the ugly southern stereotypes we have long been plagued with. They cannot go long without their innate racism and bigotry showing even as they declare they are neither. And they are quick to anger and speak of fighting “them”.

    I am willing to agree there is a context and a reason to see that flag displayed, I just have yet to see a flagger use it with reverence, solemnity, dignity and decorum. I think I will be waiting a long time and so will the soldiers.

  • Andy Hall Aug 20, 2015 @ 8:15

    The immediacy of social media — especially Facebook and Twitter, that facilitate conversations in near-real-time — sometimes gives people a false sense of intimacy, and they forget that it’s a conversation being held in public. And then they’re shocked, SHOCKED that someone calls them to task on it.

    I personally think it’s helpful because it gives an insight into what people actually think and what they believe, as opposed to a prepared statement or press release. And some of these people say some pretty awful stuff when they think only their like-minded friends are reading. It’s who they are.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 20, 2015 @ 10:08

      There ought to be no surprise by W&L’s decision. Their behavior in Lexington has been reprehensible for some time.

      • Andy Hall Aug 20, 2015 @ 13:18

        Washington & Lee is diligent about honoring Lee as an educator, and (as I may have mentioned before) he figures prominently in the promotional materials they send out to prospective students. But there’s no special reason or obligation to buy into the ceremonial reenactment stuff, or historical white-washing that heritage groups specialize in.

    • Marian Latimer Aug 21, 2015 @ 18:18

      OMG. How awful. I am so sick of the presumption that every African-American, particularly female, is not working. Ms. Newsome has connections to Charlotte and I believe she is a talented film maker on her way up. I wonder what some of these people who have time to sit and lurk around making nasty comments (and I admit to my temper at times, but hopefully for the right reasons) are doing for gainful employment.

      • Sandi Saunders Aug 22, 2015 @ 8:51

        Yes Marian, I wonder that often myself. “self-employed” is a euphemism for I can’t keep a job IMO. They will always mention “Sharpton”, “Farrakan”, “EBT” and “welfare” but then assure us they’re not racist. They feel they are speaking in “code” and no one will know. They could not be more of a stereotype if they were trying. What they always miss is that it is not just black people who disagree with them and their Confederacy. Plenty of us white people are fed up with them too!

  • Jerry McKenzie Aug 20, 2015 @ 6:56

    A fine example of biting the hand that feeds you (or hosts your banquet).

    • Andy Hall Aug 20, 2015 @ 9:50

      It’s remarkable how these folks spew vitriol, threats and name-calling, and then are surprised when the targets of their ire are disinclined to extend the hand of friendship and mutual respect. They don’t understand human nature very well.

  • Leo Aug 20, 2015 @ 4:49

    I thought I was, but I apologize if I somehow drifted off topic. I only intend to point out the nonsense they spew online and in commentary where I live too.

  • Leo Aug 20, 2015 @ 4:38

    I thought I was, but I apologize if I somehow drifted off point. I just meant to highlight some of the nonsense the SCV is propagating where I live as well.

  • Leo Aug 19, 2015 @ 20:21

    I have a screen capture of the hoax remark. This link might take you to it on another page.

  • Leo Aug 19, 2015 @ 20:17

    The first speaker in the video from the Daily Journal illustrates some of the historical mythology being spread about the flag issue. However, social media here is filled with hateful and sometimes openly racist comments.

    I found one post on a state senator’s Facebook page stating the Charleston shooting that spawned the flag backlash was a hoax.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 20, 2015 @ 1:58

      What does this have to do with the SCV?

      • Leo Aug 20, 2015 @ 3:47

        Listen to the first speaker. He is spewing their mythology about taxes being the reason for the war

        • Kevin Levin Aug 20, 2015 @ 4:01

          We’ve heard that before. Please stick to the subject of the post. Thank you.

  • Leo Aug 19, 2015 @ 20:06
  • Al Mackey Aug 19, 2015 @ 18:55

    True to form, the SCV isn’t telling the truth about why they were denied the permission and instead they’re trying to portray themselves as victims of discrimination.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 20, 2015 @ 2:19

      Bring in the Virginia Flaggers to “Restore the Honor.” 🙂

    • John Betts Aug 20, 2015 @ 17:19

      Methinks that the SCV spokesperson forgets that the “70 million descendants of Confederate veterans” do not all share his viewpoint on the matter. Indeed, many of us are in fact descendants of veterans from BOTH sides of the Civil War. Personally, I rather like the outcome of the war myself at least with regards to slavery being abolished and the Union preserved.

  • Robert Hawkins Aug 19, 2015 @ 17:17

    Too often, you offer the intemperate remarks of an SCV member (s) and attribute them as representative of the whole organization. The SCV has never been that efficient, nor that monolithic – even before social media, reporters gleefully sought out persons on the fringe of a meeting, memorial service to offer up a more pungent sound byte or quote. Here, you take glee in the result, regardless of the act of an institution of learning that expressly denigrates the right of free speech, of criticism. You might reflect on that as an educator, once your dance of joy subsides.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 19, 2015 @ 17:19

      Perhaps you should take this up with W&L. They were the ones who had to deal with the nasty emails, messages and threats.

      Here, you take glee in the result…

      Yes, it certainly borders on that given the amount of time I have watched the SCV run themselves in the dirt.

      • Michael Williams Aug 19, 2015 @ 19:40

        Kevin would you please show me a link to these remarks?

        • Kevin Levin Aug 20, 2015 @ 2:32

          I recommend contacting the school.

        • L.K. Collins Aug 24, 2015 @ 8:50

          While I in no way support abusive comment or behavior, I have also have significant problems with Washington and Lee’s exclusion of the organization based on the argument of free speech.

          And if W&L accepts any monies from Virginia or the US government, their obligation to the Constitution trumps their proprietary right to control speech uttered in the Lee Chapel.

          • Kevin Levin Aug 24, 2015 @ 10:19

            I am sure they have the legal end of things under control.

          • Jimmy Dick Aug 24, 2015 @ 11:59

            That does not translate to allowing an organization that has no affiliation with the school to conduct ceremonies which involve lying about history.

    • John Betts Aug 20, 2015 @ 17:21

      How is it that a private university “denigrates the right of free speech”? I was unaware that the First Amendment applied on private property…

      • Robert Hawkins Aug 20, 2015 @ 20:42

        Down, Esquire. I wasn’t suggesting a Section 1983 action – I was commenting on the more or less assumed atmosphere of free exchange of ideas existing on the campus of any institution of higher learning, and how it was chilled more by the University’s comments than by it’s actions.

        • Sandi Saunders Aug 21, 2015 @ 3:30

          “Therein lies the rub”, the SCV is not part of the campus nor the “free exchange of ideas existing on the campus”. They were guests and they behaved badly and have suffered the consequences. It happens. It happened. The “chill” should be on their actions going forward. But clearly it will not be.

          • Kevin Levin Aug 21, 2015 @ 4:26

            That’s absolutely right. The SCV has no one to blame but themselves.

    • Andy Hall Aug 21, 2015 @ 15:16

      Too often, you offer the intemperate remarks of an SCV member(s) and attribute them as representative of the whole organization.

      Brandon Dorsey, the Camp Commander of the Stonewall Brigade Camp in Lexington, the group that sought to use the chapel, last year referred to the W&L president as “the nations most notorious grave robber.”. Dorsey is also former Commander of the Virginia Division of the SCV. Dorsey’s words absolutely reflect on the group he leads, and they should.

      The fact is, SCV members and other heritage folks direct that sort of vitriol at people they disagree with all the time, and are applauded for it. They can do that, but they shouldn’t be surprised with the targets of such expression turn out to be unwilling to work with them.

  • Rosieo Aug 19, 2015 @ 17:11

    Maybe if you’re a bully you just keep charging on, demanding your way, and expect the world to fall in line….
    Maybe they expected a NO and asked only to maintain their issue – keeping protesting alive so as to keep their cause alive
    They are just nuts

  • Jimmy Dick Aug 19, 2015 @ 17:08

    They have done this to themselves. They’ve supported a lie for over a century. The leadership drove out anyone that did not adhere to a rather radical ideology, instead choosing to insist of lost cause orthodoxy. The result has been a disaster for them as their more racist members have literally ran the organization into the ground by their individual actions.

    They can’t refute facts any longer with the lost cause lies because the same mechanism that allows the SCV to disseminate their information allows historians to disseminate facts. People can see right through the lies of the lost cause.

  • Rob Baker Aug 19, 2015 @ 17:03

    Southern Heritage advocates are their own worst enemies.

  • Boyd Harris Aug 19, 2015 @ 16:50

    The threat of lynching is probably the most historically accurate thing I have ever seen from an organization dedicated to preserving southern heritage. That is really sad.

  • Pat Young Aug 19, 2015 @ 16:44

    For all the derogatory remarks I read about The Committee, their action led to the removal of the CBF and the SCV.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 19, 2015 @ 16:49

      I gotta say I am surprised that they even applied for a permit.

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