- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2007

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — In an unlikely marriage of desire to secede from the United States, two advocacy groups from opposite political traditions — New England and the South — are sitting down to talk.

Tired of foreign wars and what they consider right-wing courts, the Middlebury Institute wants liberal states like Vermont to be able to secede peacefully.

That sounds just fine to the League of the South, a conservative group that refuses to give up on Southern independence.

“We believe that an independent South, or Hawaii, Alaska, or Vermont would be better able to serve the interest of everybody, regardless of race or ethnicity,” said Michael Hill of Killen, Ala., president of the League of the South.

The Middlebury Institute and the League of the South are hosting a two-day Secessionist Convention that began yesterday in Chattanooga.

They expect to attract supporters from California, Alaska and Hawaii, inviting anyone who wants to dissolve the Union so states can save themselves from an overbearing federal government.

If allowed to go their own way, New Englanders “probably would allow abortion and have gun control,” Mr. Hill said, while Southerners “would probably crack down on illegal immigration harder than it is being now.”

The U.S. Constitution does not explicitly prohibit secession, but few think it is politically viable.

Vermont, one of the nation’s most liberal states, has become a hotbed for liberal secessionists, a fringe movement that gained new traction because of the Iraq war, rising oil prices and the formation of several pro-secession groups.

Thomas Naylor, the founder of one of those groups, the Second Vermont Republic, said the friendly relationship with the League of the South doesn’t mean everyone shares all the same beliefs.

But the retired Duke University professor said the League of the South shares his group’s opposition to the federal government and the need to pursue secession.

“It doesn’t matter if our next president is Condoleezza [Rice] or Hillary [Rodham Clinton], it is going to be grim,” he said , adding that secessionist movements are active in more than 25 states, including Hawaii, Alaska, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Texas.

The Middlebury Institute, based in Cold Spring, N.Y., was started in 2005. Its followers, disillusioned by the Iraq war and federal imperialism, share the idea of states becoming independent republics. They contend their movement is growing.

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