Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Seceding from the world

This story is worth noting, though there are reasons to be skeptical:
Group promotes secession from U.S.

A Texas group wants conservative Christians to move to South Carolina -- 12,000 at a time -- to form a biblically inspired government and secede from the United States.

Decrying a national tolerance of abortion and gay marriage, and the teaching of evolution, hopes to achieve a majority of like-minded Christians in the state by 2016, the planned year of secession.

Scholars say the group is symptomatic of an alarming rise of separatist sentiment that is particularly strong in the South.

The piece later reports that the organization is run by a 28-year-old Texan named Cory Burnell, but notes that he is operating in conjunction with the League of the South, an openly secessionist neo-Confederate group with strong connections in South Carolina.

A quick visit to the Web site -- and especially a survey of the group's position statements -- makes clear pretty quickly that this is a neo-Confederate version of the "white homeland" fantasy promoted by Richard Butler of the Aryan Nations and others in which white supremacists would move to northern Idaho en masse. Another version of this was the Montana Freemen's fantasy of creating a "constitutional" sovereign state in Jordan, Montana.

Like those other movements, there was an assumption that the local populace would welcome them with open arms, which turned out not to be the case in Idaho and Montana -- and may or may not be in South Carolina:
Burnell is relying on local groups to help accommodate his fellow Christian secessionists, who will need jobs and homes.

"It's a movement that appeals to us because we're also in favor of state rule," said James Layden, chairman of the S.C. League of the South. "If things continue to slide toward perversion, we're going to have to do something."

The alliance is a natural one, many say.

Burnell's plan is an outgrowth of the Christian Reconstruction movement, a backlash against the Civil Rights advances of the 1960s, Potok said.

Such movements often combine fundamentalist theology with Confederate nostalgia, a mix that can be traced back to the writings of Robert Dabney, chaplain to Confederate Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.

The creation of is just another sign that separatist sentiment is rising in the South, said Potok. (Potok pointed out that Texas already has its own neo-Confederate secessionist movement called The Republic of Texas.)

Burnell's program "is very, very similar to the original Confederacy," said Harry Singleton, a professor of religion and philosophy at Benedict College. "Basically what they're trying to do is re-establish a reality where for them the divine and the secular mesh."

At this point Burnell's fantasy appears to be just that and little more. It bears watching, though, to see if his plan bears any kind of strange fruit.

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