After a century of efforts the United States Senate passes a bill that makes lynching a federal hate crime. When it is learned that the bill will extend protections for LGBT individuals and protect them from hate crimes, Liberty Counsel gets to work. Mathew Staver opposed the bill and worked to prevent gays, lesbians and others excluded from the legislation. Blow back was swift and direct. This blog would like to ask if its family values of Liberty Counsel to support the lynching of gays?
“From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate.”
“Hate cages all the good things about you.”
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:21-22 ESV
Ku Klux Klan exhibit at the Smithsonian of the Museum of the African-American.
Emory Professor on how a lynching was done in Alabama.
There is some troubling news that comes out of the evangelical culture wars that shocked me. The first I read this is in the update from the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Its about an attempt to make it illegal to lynch LGBT people in a federal anti crime bill. One of the prominent evangelical culture warriors fought the effort. Before we get into Mathew Staver and Liberty Counsel let’s look at some history when it comes to lynchings.
Brief Historical Overview and A Primary Account of the Lynching of Henry James Outside Charlottesville, Virginia in 1898
Lynching has long been a problem in American history. In the west it took place in locations such as Montana, Utah, Colorado and other western areas when they were territories or young states. In these situations the lynchings were not racial in their overtones, instead many were whites against whites and the result of vigilantes. In other parts of the United States lynching was an act of racism against blacks by organizations like the Ku Klux Klan in a way to bring about fear and terror to blacks. According to the National Association for the Advancement of Color People from 1882 until 1968 there were 4,742 lynchings in the United States. 73% of those who were lynched were black, which is 3,446 people. Its important to remember that in all likelihood this is but probably a fraction of the lynchings that took place as many lynchings were not recorded. The states in the south that had the most lynchings are Mississippi, Georgia, and Texas. Mississippi had 581 from 1882 until 1968; Georgia had 531; and Texas was at 493. Many whites embraced and used lynching against blacks. In the American south people blamed the freed slaves for their loss of economic opportunities. Others feared blacks raping white women and used that as a justification. If you would like to read more about the history of lynching you can do so here, here and here.
In order to get an understanding on the horror of lynching I am going to re-publish a first hand primary source account of a lynching that occurred outside Charlottesville, Virginia. On July 11, 1898 Julia Hotopp was allegedly raped near the family estate. A suspect, John Henry James was eventually arrested. Word got around the community and people started gathering outside the jail cell. The Charlottesville Chief of Police fearing for James’ life smuggled him out of the jail and was able to get him on a train. The following morning the train was stopped by about 100 people. They dragged the suspect out of the train, put a rope around his neck, and lynched him as he screamed and was choking. Many people then pulled out their revolvers and proceeded to shoot at James Henry James. This all happened in under a few minutes and his lifeless body then hung from a tree until late afternoon. Below is a primary source account of the lynching from the Charlottesville Daily Progress. The witness to the event was the editor of the Waynesboro Herald. Please keep in mind that primary sources can be slanted.
A Federal Anti-Lynching Bill
There have been efforts to pass a federal bill against lynching for the past century. Opposition to it has come from the political machine in the south, and FDR needed Southern Democrats to support his New Deal program. If you want to read a comprehensive history of the efforts to deal with lynching you can do so right here. In the newest round the bill was called “Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018.” The bill would make lynching a federal hate crime. The three senators who sponsored and promoted it are Republican Tim Scott from South Carolina, and Democrats Cory Booker from New Jersey and Kamala Harris from California. The bill passed the United States Senate unanimously with bi-partisan support on December 19, 2018. It has to still go through the House of Representatives and will likely come up in this Congress.
The Opposition by Mathew Staver of Liberty Council
In January opposition to the “Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018” came from an unusual source. It came from the head of Liberty Counsel, Mathew Staver. When there was talk of extending LGBT protections in the act and protect the from hate crimes, he swarmed and immediately opposed the effort. Mathew Stever told a website run by the American Family Association the following. “The old saying is once that camel gets the nose in the tent, you can’t stop them from coming the rest of the way in,” he explains. “And this would be the first time that you would have in federal law mentioning gender identity and sexual orientation as part of this anti-lynching bill.” Staver added the following in the article. “So far they’ve been unsuccessful over the many years in the past, but this is a way to slip it in under a so-called anti-lynching bill, and to then to sort of circle the wagon and then go for the jugular at some time in the future.”
Many people pounced and were shocked that Mathew Staver would be opposed to the effort. Mathew Staver claimed it was all a misunderstanding and that he wants people protected. Liberty Counsel released a statement on the topic which you can access right here. Liberty Counsel created a lot of negative press which you can read in the following articles.
- Rolling Stone, “Do Evangelical Activists Want to Legalize Gay Lynching?”
- NBC News, “Evangelical group wants gays removed from anti-lynching bill“
- Vox, “An evangelical group is trying to strip LGBTQ protections from an anti-lynching bill.”
- Newsweek, “Evangelical ‘Hate Group’ Lobbies to Remove LGBT Protections From Anti-Lynching Bill.”
- Huffington Post, “Evangelical Christian Group Upset That LGBTQ People Are Mentioned In Anti-Lynching Bill”
Analysis of the Situation
Liberty Counsel has been named a “Hate Group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They have resisted, fought and attacked the definition. But in this situation Staver revealed his cards. Mathew Staver’s action in this lynching bill clearly shows why they are a hate a group and how they earned that label. Its 2019 who in their right mind could oppose lynching in any context? Honestly I thought I heard everything and this just staggers me. This reveals the culture by many evangelical culture warriors on this topic. Liberty Counsel has a fair amount of influence among many fundamentalists. For the record this is not the first time I have written about Liberty Counsel. Mathew Stever and Liberty Counsel defended Kim Davis. Then they proceeded to get involved in Romanian politics and export their culture wars. You can read about this in, “When Evangelical Christians Export their Culture Wars Abroad: Kim Davis and Liberty Counsel Fighting Gay Marriage in Romania.”
This also begs the question from my perspective, why oppose lynching legislation? Is that a part of the “Gospel” of Mathew Staever? For the evangelicals who have bought into this how does this help society and culture? I have racked my brain on this and I can’t think of any reason why someone would oppose this. Is the goal of people like Mathew Staver just to attack gays? Is it to keep up the attack and try and force them out of the United States? What is the “perceived threat” that gays pose? Honestly I feel awful for asking that as many gays steer clear of evangelical churches. So why be opposed to lynching? For those who read the next part I am asking this out of sheer sarcasm. Is the next family picnic at Liberty Counsel include raiding the home of someone who is gay, dragging them out of bed and then lynching from a street light? Will the employees of Liberty Counsel do what some of the Ku Klux Klan and other white terrorists did and pose with the body and take pictures of each other? This is yet another tragic reason why the culture wars are dangerous and why they must end.