SHOULD CONGRESS CONDEMN THE COUNCIL OF CONSERVATIVE CITIZENS?

March 15, 1999

On February 2, 1999, Reps. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina and Robert Wexler of Florida introduced House Resolution 35, "condemning the racism and bigotry of the Council of Conservative Citizens." To date, more than 100 congressmen have joined Reps. Clyburn and Wexler in cosponsoring H. Res. 35. Almost all of the cosponsors are Democrats, as are Reps. Clyburn and Wexler themselves. The resolution is currently in the Judiciary Committee and has been referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution.

H. Res. 35 is an extremely flawed piece of legislation. Not only are many of the accusations it launches against the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC) factually untrue but also the very concept of the measure is inappropriate to the Congress of the United States and repugnant to a free society. It appears to be unprecedented for the U.S. Congress to "condemn" an entire organization of some 15,000 members that has broken no law, advocated no violent or illegal act, and expressed no disloyalty to the United States.

H. RES. 35 IS INAPPROPRIATE LEGISLATION FOR CONGRESS TO PASS

A press release issued by Mr. Clyburn when the resolution was introduced stated that H. Res. 35 is "modeled on the 1994 resolution condemning the 'Racist, anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic speech given by Khalid Abdul Muhammed of the Nation of Islam at Kean College' in 1993." In that speech, however, Khalid Muhammed, at that time a spokesman for the Nation of Islam, called for the mass murder of white people by blacks in South Africa. Speaking at Kean College in Union, New Jersey, on November 29, 1993, Mr. Muhammed stated:

We kill the women. We kill the babies. We kill the blind. We kill the cripples. We kill them all.... When you get through killing them all, go to the godddamn graveyard and dig up the grave and kill them a-goddamn-gain because they didn't die hard enough.

No one has ever claimed that anyone associated with the CofCC has ever made a statement of such brutality and violence as that of Khalid Muhammed. However "offensive" and however "eccentric" some ideas expressed by some members of the CofCC may seem to some people, there is no similarity whatsoever between them and the call to commit genocide that Mr. Muhammed issued.

Even so, as brutal and violent as the remarks of Khalid Muhammed are, it is not the business of the U.S. Congress to condemn him for uttering them. If Khalid Muhammed violated a law by making his speech, he should be prosecuted by the appropriate authorities. If he did not violate a law, there is every reason for individual congressmen and public opinion to condemn him. But when the U.S. Congress officially condemns an individual or an organization for the legal expression of political, religious, racial, or other views it holds, the result can only be a chilling effect on freedom of expression and freedom of political activity for everyone and the establishment of a precedent for future legislation that may reach well beyond mere verbal "condemnation."

If the Congress can move from condemning Khalid Muhammed for expressing "racist, anti-Catholic, and anti-Semitic" sentiments to condemning the CofCC for espousing "racism and bigotry," whom will it condemn next? Pro-lifers whose rhetoric is said by some (including some many who condemn the CofCC) to encourage the bombing of abortion clinics and the murder of abortionists? Opponents of homosexuality whose rhetoric is said by some (including some who condemn the CofCC) to encourage the murder of homosexuals? Opponents of U.S. involvement in foreign wars whose ideas are said by some to extend to sympathy for foreign tyrannical regimes?

In contemporary America there is an almost endless list of groups, causes, and individuals who give voice to ideas and views that are "eccentric," "extreme," "insensitive," "offensive," unpopular, or merely unusual in the culture created by the political and media establishment. When in the whole of American history has the United States Congress taken upon itself the responsibility of "condemning" such groups? Where, if the Congress starts condemning them now, will such action end? And why, if it is proper for Congress to police the ideas and opinions of private groups and organizations, has it not long since voted to condemn the views expressed by such organizations as the Communist Party, the Ku Klux Klan, the Nation of Islam itself, or any number of other extremist causes?

H. RES. 35 MAKES FALSE AND IRRESPONSIBLE ACCUSATIONS

But not only is the very concept of H. Res. 35 flawed from the perspective of the constitutional ideals of American society. Many of the charges the resolution hurls against the CofCC are simply false, the result of careless examination of what the CofCC actually advocates and supports and of a politically driven desire to attack and discredit all conservative causes in general and the Republican Party in particular.

(1) The resolution states, "Whereas the Council of Conservative Citizens is an outgrowth of the segregationalist [sic] 'White Citizens Council', commonly known as the White-Collar Klan, which helped to enforce segregation in the 1950s and 1960s...."

The accurate name of the organization mentioned was not the "White Citizens Council" but simply the "Citizens Councils of America," nor was it "commonly known" as the "White Collar Klan." It was perhaps called that by its enemies, but neither it nor the present CofCC had or has any connection with the Ku Klux Klan. While we cannot speak for the old Citizens Councils of America, we can confidently state that no members of the CofCC are members of the Ku Klux Klan.

In any case, the CofCC is not "an outgrowth" of the Citizens Councils of America. The Citizens Councils of America continued to exist as an organization well after the CofCC was founded in 1985. Both organizations were or are conservative organizations based mainly in the Southern states, and therefore there is to some extent an overlap of members and beliefs shared by them, just as there is between membership of the old Council and the present-day Republican Party in the South. The old Citizens Councils of America contained perhaps millions of members during the course of its existence, and it is hardly remarkable if some (perhaps 10 percent to 15 percent) of the membership of the present CofCC is composed of former members of the old Citizens Councils.

Both the old Citizens Councils of America and the present CofCC endorsed and continue to endorse states rights as defined in the 9th and 10th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Both organizations opposed and continue to oppose forced racial integration, whether in the form of government-designed and imposed "desegregation," court-ordered busing, or present-day affirmative action, racial quotas, and "race-norming."

(2) The resolution states "Whereas the Council of Conservative Citizens promotes racism, divisiveness, and intolerance through its newsletter, World Wide Web site, and public discourse...."

This language is apparently based on biased reports in liberal newspapers hostile to the CofCC and to all conservative causes and on accounts by such politically hostile sources as the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). It is the purpose of such sources to discredit all conservative organizations, personalities, and ideas, and they have regularly made use of guilt by association and out-of-context quotations to try to discredit the CofCC.

It is entirely true that the CofCC does indeed speak out on many issues for white European Americans, their civilization, faith, and form of government, but it does not advocate or support the oppression or exploitation of other races or ethnic groups. It also addresses many other issues that have nothing to do with race but with such matters as constitutional government, national sovereignty, a foreign policy that reflects the national interests of the United States, a strong national defense policy, traditional morality and culture, the right to keep and bear arms, education, immigration control, a trade policy that protects American workers and national economic interests, and a free market economy.

Most of what has been alleged about the CofCC with regard to its newspaper (the Citizens Informer) and web site (http://www.cofcc.org) has to do with opinions expressed in the newsletter by a private member of the CofCC and by a columnist on the website who is not a member of the CofCC concerning interracial marriage. The CofCC as an organization does not have a position on interracial marriage, which is hardly a major issue of American politics or of public discussion; like most Americans, some members oppose it, while others are indifferent. Those who are opposed to interracial marriage are hardly unique to the CofCC or to the right side of the political spectrum. Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard, one of the leading enemies of the CofCC, has expressed his own strong opposition to the marriage of members of his own Jewish identity with non-Jews. Many black leaders have also expressed their opposition to the marriage of blacks and whites. Most Americans continue to marry within their own racial groups, and whatever one thinks of interracial marriage, it is clear that if it were to become the general pattern of behavior, the "diversity" the resolution condemns the CofCC for rejecting would cease to exist. It is not clear why objecting to interracial marriage merits condemnation.

(3) The resolution states that "Whereas the Council of Conservative Citizens promulgates dogma that supports white supremacy and anti-Semitism and maliciously denigrates great American leaders including Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr...."

It is totally untrue that the CofCC supports "white supremacy" or "anti-Semitism." "White supremacy" can only mean a system of entrenched political domination of a non-white race by whites. Such a system existed in South Africa under apartheid and in the Southern United States under ante-bellum slavery. It no longer exists in the United States.

As for "anti-Semitism," not one newspaper story or report has documented a single instance of an anti-Semitic statement, position, publication, or action on the part of the CofCC. If this charge is true, let those who make it produce some evidence in support of it.

As for Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., these are major figures of American history, and they and their names continue to be invoked to advance partisan political causes or to legitimize political, cultural, and racial agendas. As long as their names are so invoked, those who invoke them must expect opponents of such agendas to criticize them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with criticizing, even with "denigrating," such figures. Responsible (and some not so responsible) historians have expressed criticisms of both Lincoln and King, as well as of other major figures in our history, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan. Not all the criticisms of these figures are valid, nor are all the criticisms of Lincoln and King that have appeared in CofCC publications or on its web site valid; but there is no harm done by the free expression and discussion of such criticisms, and there is no legitimate reason whatsoever for the U.S. Congress to try to intimidate such discussion by condemning those who engage in it.

(4) The resolution states, "Whereas the Council of Conservative Citizens provides access to, and opportunities for the promotion of, extremist neo-Nazi ideology and propaganda that incite hate crimes and violence...."

Once again, there is simply no truth to these charges. The CofCC is in no sense whatsoever a "neo-Nazi" (or any kind of Nazi) organization, has no sympathy with Naziism, and has nothing to do with Nazi ideology or propaganda. The CofCC is a mainly Christian organization, with several mainstream Christian clergymen on its National Board of Directors, and the CofCC also contains black, Asian, and Jewish members. It is simply preposterous to claim that any of these people would join or participate in or remain members of a group that promoted neo-Nazi ideology or propaganda.

It has also been reported that the CofCC sells or distributes "Holocaust Revisionist" or "Holocaust Denial" materials, that its members give a "stiff-armed salute" at meetings, and that it follows a strategy of imitating the Nazis but never using the word. Every one of these charges, each of which has appeared in supposedly responsible newspapers, is totally false.

Nor is it true that any action or statement issued by the CofCC "incites hate crimes and violence." The CofCC categorically rejects and condemns the use of violence and is committed to the legal, peaceful, democratic, and constitutional political processes of the American Republic.

Indeed, through its publications the CofCC has actually helped publicize racially motivated criminal violence committed against white Americans -- crimes that other news media tend to ignore or downplay. The CofCC has also sponsored commemorative ceremonies in honor of Michael Westerman, a young white man murdered by blacks in rural Kentucky on January 14, 1995 because he displayed the Confederate Battle Flag on his truck. While the enemies of the CofCC claim that it "incites hate crimes and violence," the truth is that it has brought racially motivated hatred and violence to public attention, condemned it, and commemorated its victims. Those who make these accusations are the ones who ignore or conceal the truth about racial hate and violence directed against whites and hurl irresponsible charges that harm the reputations of the innocent and exacerbate racial tensions.

If a private individual rather than a congressman stated that the CofCC "incites" crimes and violence, he could quickly find himself the object of a legal action. Unfortunately, the U.S. Congress can hide behind its privileged position to lob baseless and libelous accusations against innocent parties, and there is nothing the law can do to protect the innocent.

H. RES. 35 IS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED

The political motivations of the concerted attack on the CofCC should by now be obvious to all who have followed it closely. The chronology of the attack alone should make it clear that what has turned out to be virtually an obsession on the part of the liberal news media originated as a carefully orchestrated effort to destroy an organization of innocent, law-abiding citizens exercising their rights of expression and assembly:

CHRONOLOGY OF ATTACK ON THE CofCC

Dec. 9, 1998 -- Alan Dershowitz publishes attack on CofCC in the Harvard Crimson.

Dec. 11, 1998 -- FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), a left-wing "media watchdog" organization, issues a "report" on the CofCC.

Dec. 11, 1998 -- Washington Post publishes first news story about CofCC, followed over the next two months by several more stories alleging extremist views and connections of the CofCC.

Dec. 18, 1998 -- Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a left-wing witch hunter organization based in Alabama, issues "report" on the CofCC.

Dec. 21, 1998 -- Anti-Defamation League issues "report" on CofCC.

December, 1998 through February, 1999 -- News and opinion articles on CofCC, mostly negative and largely based on errors and misinterpretations in the above sources, appear in more than 200 newspapers and magazines nationwide.

The appearance of the orchestrated attacks on the CofCC in December, 1998 within ten days of the vote in the House of Representatives to impeach President Clinton on December 19 is not an accident. One congressman who played a major role in pressing for the impeachment of the president was Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee who had addressed a national meeting of the CofCC in Charleston, S.C., on June 6, 1998. Another key Republican member of Congress who was expected to play a major role in the forthcoming trial of President Clinton in the Senate and who also had addressed a CofCC national meeting in 1992 was Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi. Just as the partisans of President Clinton in and out of Congress sought to distract public attention from the charges against the president and to discredit the president's Republican critics by exposing sexual misconduct by some Republican congressmen, so they also sought to achieve the same ends by claiming that these two key leaders of the impeachment and trial of the president were closely tied to a "racist" organization. Almost all of the liberal and left-wing commentary attacking the CofCC and the supposed "ties" of Rep. Barr and Sen. Lott to it dwell on the relationship of those "ties" to the impeachment issue.

It is of considerable interest that other major Republican office holders alleged to have close "ties" to the CofCC or to have addressed it in the past (for example, Gov. Kirk Fordice of Mississippi and Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina) were never subjected to the same degree of criticism as Rep. Barr and Sen. Lott. The reason for this was that Gov. Fordice and Sen. Helms had little or nothing to do with the impeachment and trial of the president, and smearing their reputations served no useful political purpose. The fact is that, despite news reports to the contrary, few of these office holders have ever had any substantial ties to the CofCC. Sen. Helms has never addressed it at all; Gov. Fordice has addressed it twice; Rep. Barr has done so only once; and all have stated that they are not members of the CofCC.

It is also of considerable interest that the vast majority of the press attacks on the CofCC were published between the time the House voted to impeach the president and the failure of the Senate to vote for the president's conviction (February 12, 1999). Once the impeachment crisis was over and President Clinton was no longer threatened with removal from office, the press attacks on the CofCC served no further useful political purpose and virtually ceased.

The politically motivated nature of the attack on the CofCC is also clear from comments made by some of the major leaders of the attack and the supporters of the resolution condemning the CofCC. While the language of the resolution itself purports that the CofCC helps to "incite" hate crimes and violence and that it is composed of neo-Nazis and "white supremacists," some of its critics in the media know these claims are false. Thus Cynthia Tucker, editorial page editor of the Atlanta Constitution, urges Congress to pass H. Res. 35 but writes (February 14, 1999),

The Council of Conservative Citizens is made up of upstanding, upright, churchgoing folk -- doctors, dentists, lawyers, businessmen. And its members -- some Republicans, some Democrats -- have claimed important political positions. Across the South, especially Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina, its members are state legislators, city council members, state officials.

In the first place, can anyone seriously think that a group composed of the kind of "upstanding, upright, churchgoing folk" that Miss Tucker accurately describes, an organization of professionals and elected office-holders, is really an organization harboring neo-Nazi beliefs, promoting "white supremacy," and inciting hate crimes and violence? To think so is to embrace the same kind of nightmarish paranoia about American society that is depicted in the more sensational productions of Hollywood.

But secondly, Miss Tucker argues that Congress must "get to the important business of ferreting out and denouncing" the political views of the CofCC, even though they are not violent or criminal. Her reason is simply political -- that she dislikes and disagrees with what she thinks those views are.

Similarly, Mark Potok, Publications and Information Director of the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center, has stated of the CofCC, "They're not going to produce a Timothy McVeigh; they are much more interested in genuine political power than in any kind of violence or terrorism. I mean Timothy McVeigh can kill 168 people, but he is never going to be elected your senator or president or congressman. So yeah, on a political level, they're much more dangerous." (quoted in Allen G. Breed, "What is this group that has embroiled Lott?" Associated Press, February 6, 1999).

Mr. Potok, in other words, acknowledges that the CofCC is not violent and not interested in terrorism or illegal activities. Why, then, is the group "dangerous"? It is "dangerous" "on a political level," because the CofCC defends political views that Mr. Potok dislikes and wishes to drive from the political arena. In a recent lecture at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. on March 2, 1999, on the subject of the "Hate Movement in America," Mr. Potok argued that Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson and Family Research Council founder Gary Bauer "provide the moral atmosphere" for the murder of homosexual Matthew Shepard in Wyoming in 1998 and for the bombings of abortion clinics and murders of abortionists in recent years. "It all leads to Wyoming," Mr. Potok stated.

If he and similar-minded persons on the political left had their way, the Congress would condemn as "dangerous" any view to the right of the Clinton administration, leaving the left itself as the dominant or even the sole voice in American politics and public discourse.

CONGRESS SHOULD REJECT H. RES. 35

In considering how they will vote on H. Res. 35, Republicans and conservatives in Congress should think about a number of concerns:

  • Will passing this resolution effectively weaken a real racist, neo-Nazi organization that secretly encourages racial hatred, violence, and tyranny, or will it merely harm and libel an innocent and law-abiding group of conservatives who dissent from the ideas and icons of the liberal establishment and who have begun to make progress in challenging liberal dominance?

  • Are the charges launched by the language of the resolution factually reliable, or are they politically motivated propaganda drawn from liberal and left-wing newspapers, media, and "investigators" designed to smear an effective conservative group?

  • If the resolution is to go forward, does the Congress possess enough information to make an intelligent and well-informed decision about the CofCC, or are hearings needed to determine what the CofCC actually has said and what it actually stands for?

  • Will passing this resolution help keep American society a free and open society, or will it discourage dissent and instill fear into those, on the left or the right, who are critical of current ideas and policies on race and other major issues of national concern?

  • Will supporting this resolution really help the cause of tolerance, justice, and freedom in America, or will it merely play into the hands of the political left, the same forces that always respond to every challenge or criticism from the right with denunciations of "racism," "insensitivity," and "extremism" and which have just helped cover up and ignore the lies and crimes of Bill Clinton?

  • Is it really the legitimate business of the U.S. Congress to enact resolutions condemning specific organizations or individuals for the views they may or may not have expressed?

  • If congressmen seriously consider these questions, they will see that the proper response to House Resolution 35 is either to allow it to die in committee with no further legislative action, or to defeat it on the floor of the House.
ISAR HOME