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Group rebukes hate claim after event canceled Waddell ceremony won't be rescheduled, says Sons of Confederate Veterans
Capital - 3/6/2017
Officials with an Annapolis church say they were misinformed when told the Sons of Confederate Veterans was a recognized hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The false information led the Rev. Amy Richter, rector at St. Anne's Episcopal Church, to cancel a Saturday event honoring Confederate Navy Capt. James Waddell organized by the group.
Richter said she was given the false information by Linda Mundy, co-founder of the Showing Up for Racial Justice advocacy group.
Mundy said Friday she had confused the SPLC's hate group "watch list" with entries on the private organization's blog.
Terry Klima, the division commander for the Maryland branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said members of the group's Waddell Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1608 have not spoken with the church since the decision and will not try to reschedule the event.
The information was pivotal in Richter's decision to stop the local branch from holding its regular ceremony to honor Waddell and celebrate Confederate Flag Day, a national effort organized in concert with the national Sons of Confederate Veterans.
"Now we know the connection they have, it can't happen," Richter said Thursday.
Klima was quick to refute the claim and disavowed any association with racism.
In an email, he pointed to the efforts the Maryland branch made to honor the remains of Cpl. George Brown, a black soldier who served in the 29th United States Colored Troops during the Civil War.
"For years, Corporal Brown's remains laid in an unmarked grave with no headstone and no recognition of his military service," Klima said.
"Without belaboring the point, it was the membership of the Maryland Sons of Confederate Veterans who recognized the injustice, took action and saw to it that a black soldier who fought on the opposing side was duly honored."
"We are about history and honoring veterans ... with emphasis on our Confederate ancestors ... but all veterans," he wrote.
The local camp goes as far as to include a passage on its website's homepage to say that the group and camp "denounce racism, racial supremacists, hate groups and any other group or individual that misuses or desecrates the symbols of the Confederate States or of the United States."
While the SPLC does not label the group as an explicit hate group, it does depict it as part of the "neo-Confederacy" movement.
"The term neo-Confederacy is used to describe twentieth and twenty-first century revivals of pro-Confederate sentiment in the United States," the SPLC wrote on its website. "Strongly nativist and advocating measures to end immigration, neo-Confederacy claims to pursue Christianity and heritage and other supposedly fundamental values that modern Americans are seen to have abandoned."
And it's an increasing concern for the SPLC. In tracking the number of neo-Confederate groups between 2000 and 2016, what had been a steady decline during Barack Obama's presidency was flipped on its head from 2015 to 2016.
According to the SPLC, they recognized 66 new neo-Confederate groups during that time period, now standing at 101.
While the national Sons of Confederate Veterans bills itself as one that would fight back against revisionist history that betrayed the country's heritage, longtime member Kirk Lyons has several ties to white supremacists.
Lyons, a lawyer, first rose to national prominence when he successfully defended 14 people, including the former Texas Grand Dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Louis Beam, from charges the group had been planning to overthrow the government and kill federal officials in Arkansas.
He married the daughter of Richard Butler, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ-Christian, also known as the Aryan Nations, and told Indy Week he didn't know whether the Holocaust had actually happened.
The group continued to have troubles with its leaders into the 2000s.
In 2002, the national group elected Ron Wilson, who the SPLC said purged the organization of 300 members "who criticized racism within the group."
There's also the issue of the Confederate flag, a prominent image within the group and during past celebrations at the St. Anne's cemetery by the group's local installation.
Many argue the flag represents an emblem of explicit racism, as the Confederate States of America fought, at least in part, to preserve slavery as an institution.
However, those within the group disagree that the flag should be seen as wholly offensive.
Whether it be local member Paul Huhn saying that "people are afraid of the Confederate flag and the issues that it brings" or the group's national leader, Charles Kelly Barrow, speaking out against the Texas Supreme Court banning the flag on license plates, the fight for the flag is ingrained in the group.
The fact that the organization has a national Confederate Flag Day, along with the church's historic compliance with the regular ceremony at its cemetery, was why Mundy organized a counter protest outside the Anne Arundel County State's Attorney's Office on Saturday.
For Klima's sake, he said the organization is trying to put the whole episode behind it. He said he isn't going to challenge the church, and they took down the listing for the event from the group's website.
Richter did not return calls for comment Friday. Attempts to contact other church officials were unsuccessful.
Credit: By Phil Davis - firstname.lastname@example.org