By Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Religion Foundation
It should come as no surprise that the group behind the Confederate flag flying, still, at the South Carolina Capitol — even after the June 17 shooting massacre of nine defenseless black people at an African-American church in Charleston by a Lutheran white supremacist — is part of the Religious Right.
The Council of Conservative Citizens, reborn from the former overtly racist White Citizens' Council, was the most vocal backer of keeping the Confederate flag up at the Capitol in Columbia during the contentious 2010 flag debate.
As The New York Times reported yesterday, the council's website links to "accounts of crimes against whites by blacks," maintains that the U.S. is a "Christian country," denounces homosexuality and opposes sex education, multiculturalism (and property taxes). It opposes "all efforts to mix the races," would abolish affirmative action and "the imperial judiciary" and says "the American people and government should remain European in their composition and character."
According to a spokesperson with the Southern Poverty Law Center, the council includes a number of noted former Ku Klux Klan members. There's another Christian Right group.
Some of accused shooter Dylann Roof's ugly racist "manifesto" traces back to the council's website. The council said that it is "hardly responsible for the actions of this deranged individual merely because he gleaned accurate information from our website."
The Times fascinatingly reported the hasty announcements by several GOP presidential candidates that they are returning or giving away donations by the council's president, Earl Holt III.
After the ties to the council by one of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's advisory committee members became public in 2013, she dropped the member. Speaking of Haley, right after the shootings, the prayerful governor initially resisted even considering reopening discussion about removing the flag, saying instead of talking policy, she had to help "heal" the state — as if that could happen with a segregationist flag at its helm.
Being a politician, she's been forced to eat those words now. It's heartening to see the stores and websites pulling Confederate flag merchandise, even though Amazon (boasting 29,000 such offerings including bikinis and a tongue ring) had to be shamed into doing so belatedly. But how horrifying and shocking that Sears/Kmart and other major marketers were carrying Confederate merchandise at all!
Meanwhile, the Confederate flag obliviously waves on at the Capitol of one of the most religious states in the nation.