A Georgia state lawmaker says the House Democrats pushing to end state holidays celebrating the Confederacy are committing “cultural terrorism” comparable to the Islamic State terrorist group.
Rep. Tommy Benton, a Republican, is backing two pieces of legislation that would protect the Confederate memorial at Stone Mountain and formally recognize Gen. Robert E. Lee’s birthday and Confederate Memorial Day. He said the bills are a direct response to Senate Bill 294, which would forbid the state from formally recognizing holidays in honor of the Confederacy or its leaders, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Friday.
Mr. Benton called that bill “cultural terrorism” and its sponsor, Sen. Vincent Fort, a “fanatic.”
“That’s no better than what ISIS is doing, destroying museums and monuments,” he told the Journal-Constitution, referring to the terror group by an acronym. “I feel very strongly about this. I think it has gone far enough. There is some idea out there that certain parts of history out there don’t matter anymore and that’s a bunch of bunk.”
Mr. Fort defended his bill, saying the government shouldn’t be involved in formally “recognizing people who were slave owners or fought to protect slavery.”
“For him to degenerate into that kind of name calling is beneath a response from me,” he said of Mr. Benton. “That kind of hyperbole does not allow for anything approaching a debate. It’s unfortunate that he would use that language.”
Stone Mountain’s carving of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson has come under scrutiny since the Charleston shootings, with civil rights activists calling for its removal. Opponents of the carving also cite the fact that the mountain was where the Ku Klux Klan held cross-burnings for decades, the Journal-Constitution reported.
The Klan “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order,” Mr. Benton claimed.
“It made a lot of people straighten up,” he said. “I’m not saying what they did was right. It’s just the way things were.”
Mr. Fort called Mr. Benton’s comments “unconscionable.”
“What he’s doing is acting as an apologist for the Ku Klux Klan,” he told the Journal-Constitution. “He’s right about elites like [past governors] of the state of Georgia being in the Klan, but just because it was the elites with the bullwhip doesn’t make it right.”