The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) became the best-known group in recent years pushing the celebration of the Confederacy and segregation as a matter of "heritage not hate". They were probably at the high point of their influence after the 2001 state flag vote in Mississippi, when voters in the Magnolia State voted in a large majority for a state flag that prominently includes the Confederate battle flag.
But the SCV soon found itself the target of groups that were even farther to the right on the spectrum - and that's pretty far out there. The Spring 2006 issue of Intelligence Report, the journal of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), brings us an update on that continuing fight: Into The Wild: Leaner and meaner under a new leader, the Sons of Confederate Veterans heads into more and more radical territory by Heidi Beirich and Mark Potok.
Beirich and Potok tell the story of how the Rev. Eric Dean discovered what what happening in the SCV:
For Rev. Dean, the clincher was a sermon from the SCV's chaplain in chief that attacked "racial interbreeding" as ungodly and described slavery as biblically sanctioned. But that was only the latest development in a long and ugly story. For almost four years now, the SCV has been embroiled in an increasingly nasty civil war, as racial extremists battle moderates for control of what is certainly the largest Southern heritage organization in America. In the last year and a half, under the leadership of a new national chief whose politics have become clearer as his term of office unfolded, the ascendancy of the radicals has become undeniable.
Since Denne Sweeney took over as SCV commander in chief in August 2004, the group's executive council has been stripped of moderate former commanders. A purge of some 300 members, accused of disloyalty for criticizing racism in the SCV, was completed. An ancient alliance with the Military Order of Stars & Bars, a sister organization for descendants of Confederate officers, was scuttled, and a bitter war with another old ally, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, erupted. Sweeney suspended an entire state division of the SCV and replaced its leaders. He diverted money originally intended for the upkeep of a cemetery and building a museum to a brand-new political arm. He promoted followers with documented racist histories to key national leadership positions. Through it all, Sweeney presided over an exodus of fully 25% of the SCV's membership, which fell from 36,000 to 27,000.
"The slackers and the grannies have been purged from our ranks," Kirk Lyons, a radical who first floated the idea of taking over the SCV in a 2000 meeting of neo-Nazis and former Klansmen, exulted in December. Now, Lyons added, the SCV needs to become "a modern, 21st century Christian war machine capable of uniting the Confederate community and leading it to ultimate victory."
A "Christian war machine" battling against "racial interbreeding". Yep, that's "heritage not hate" for you. Here's some more details about the fine folks leading the charge to defend Suthun honuh in today's SCV:
As chaplain in chief, Sweeney named H. Rondel Rumberg, who has been a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC). The CCC, descended from the infamous White Citizens Councils, has called blacks "a retrograde species of humanity" and lamented that non-white immigration is turning the U.S. population into a "slimy brown mass of glop." (It was Rumberg's description of miscegenation as "not the way of God" that helped drive the Rev. Dean out of the SCV.)
Indeed, membership in such groups has become almost commonplace in the new SCV - so much so that this January, Gene Andrews, commander of an SCV camp in Brentwood, Tenn., casually boasted in a newsletter that he belonged both to the CCC and the LOS [the explicitly secessionist League of the South]. He went on to describe as "first class men among men" a group including Jared Taylor, who edits American Renaissance, a racist periodical devoted to the idea that whites are smarter and less "pathological" than blacks.
None of this bothers Denne Sweeney. He told the Intelligence Report he would be concerned only if SCV members also belonged to a group that "espouses violence and overthrow and killing of black people" and added that he saw the CCC and LOS as mere "borderline" groups. That's a view not shared by the Republican National Committee or the Conservative Political Action Committee, both of which have described the CCC as a racist group that their members should avoid. (my emphasis)
I recall that in the Missisippi flag vote campaign of 2001, the SCV didn't seem to care to distance themselves from the other group most actively pushing the Confederate state flag, the League of the South. The LOC explicitly advocates secession in the present day, and their white-supremacist tilt is unmistakable. Maybe they should have been thinking about selecting their allies more carefully.
I was struck by the comment that the national Republican Party has officially condemned the White Citizens Council (the CCC) and the LOC as racist groups (it takes something to get the Republican Party to brand a white group as racist!) and said their members should avoid those groups. I wonder why the national party hasn't taken steps against Missisippi Governor Haley Barbour or Alabama politician George Wallace, Jr., for kissing up to the Citizens Council? ROFLMAO!
The current SCV's "heritage not hate" values apparently involve a total rejection of American patriotism:
In February, Sweeney, aided substantially by Lyons, produced what was by any measure an extraordinary document - a proposed new constitution for the SCV to replace the one first adopted in 1896. With the original prologue stripped away, the new constitution would remove all mentions of a reunited United States and also all references to the Pledge of Allegiance, which many SCV radicals despise as an oath to the godless, anti-Southern North. It removes impediments to SCV members taking on political causes and ends the original constitution's strongly apolitical flavor. And it vastly expands the power of the commander in chief, both retroactively authorizing the moves Sweeney made to change the executive council's makeup and giving him the power to unilaterally suspend SCV divisions, camps and individuals. It would also allow Sweeney to run for reelection, which is now against SCV rules. The redrafted constitution will be voted on at the SCV's national convention next August.
This all fits well with the aspirations of radicals including Lyons, who wrote recently that the SCV needs to "engage the enemy and win the war." And that will almost certainly mean continued purges and vicious political infighting. As Kevin Spargur, the editor of the Florida SCV's newsletter, said recently of theenemies of the new SCV: "If we are to win this war, we must give them the bayonet." (my emphasis)
Sounds like a real nice bunch of Christian Southern white folks, huh?