A RESPONSIBILITY TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST HATE
a statement by the Rev. Paul Oakley
Waynesboro, Virginia, City Council Meeting
Council Chambers in the Charles T. Yancey Municipal Building
7:00 PM, Monday, November 27, 2017
Mr. Mayor and City Council members,
I am the Reverend Paul Oakley, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Waynesboro. Our fellowship was formed in 1955 and has met on Pine Avenue in the Tree Streets since 1965. Our denomination reaches back to before the Revolutionary War, and our members were among the framers and early presidents of our republic. This community and this country are our home.
When the Ku Klux Klan placed their recruitment flyers on windshields here in Waynesboro, the leaders and residents of our city were faced with a choice concerning whether and how to respond to the Klan’s message of hate and white supremacy. The Ku Klux Klan is the oldest American hate group. Black Americans have always been the Klan’s primary target. The Klan has also attacked Jews, immigrants, gays and lesbians. Until quite recently, the Klan also targeted Catholics. While the Klan have self-identified as Christian, the teachings of love of God and humanity that are generally central in Christianity are sadly lacking from the Klan.
In their recruitment flyers they slander the new civil rights activists of the Black Lives Matter movement, falsely claiming that they are killing white people and killing police. They perpetuate the lie that people of color who died unarmed in the streets were thugs who deserved what they got. The condemnation of so-called “thugs” who supposedly deserve to die in the streets is a white-supremacist lie intended to rile up hatred. There is no excuse for this lie. A call to the number supplied on the recruitment flyers reached a highly anti-Semitic message. And anti-Semitism was integral to the cancerous white supremacism of Nazism that we expended great national resources to defeat on the battlefield in World War II. Nevertheless, the evil of anti-Semitism is still very much present, requiring us to continue to struggle against it.
The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that hate groups have the right to freely express their scurrilous beliefs and values. But their right to express their hatred is not the end of the law. Furthermore, we have a moral obligation to fight their desire to promote white supremacy. We must oppose their stated desire to enact ethnic cleansing.
The City of Waynesboro has limited legal remedies for the hateful incursion of the KKK in our community. But this City Council and you, Mr. Mayor, have a responsibility to speak out publicly against hate groups that recruit here and make scandalous, deceitful, slanderous statements that would perpetuate inequity and do damage to human dignity in our community. Please speak out for the worth and dignity of people in this community, made in the image of God, people that the KKK would denigrate and harm.
Do what is right, Mr. Mayor. Please speak out more publicly and with clarity against the KKK.
Thank you for hearing my remarks.
Breaking Through News coverage of the portion of this council meeting where citizens challenged the council to speak out against the KKK at the link.