Iowa Republican national committeewoman Tamara Scott, also the state director of Concerned Women for America and a lobbyist for The Family Leader, said on her radio program last week that the shooting of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white supremacist gunman was not a “racial issue” but instead part of a “targeted assault” on Christianity exemplified by the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage. She also criticized efforts to remove the Confederate flag from state property, saying that the flag is a Benghazi-like “diversion” from the real things dividing America: the media, public schools and rappers.
The Charleston shooting, Scott said, is “being hijacked to a racial issue.” Her interviewee, South Carolina pastor Brad Atkins — the state head of the American Family Association’s American Renewal Project who led the planning of Gov. Nikki Haley’s “The Response” prayer rally last month — agreed, saying the victims “lost their lives primarily not because they were black and the killer was white, but because they were gathered together at the church.”
“There really was no debate” about the flag, Atkins said, up until the “secular media” used it as a distraction from the fact that the shooting actually “happened because of a lack of Christian influence in society”
Scott agreed, saying that the real cultural problems that led to the shooting are “a media that relentlessly pit groups against each other, voters in the elections where they pit voters into blocs against each other, or the education system that consistently creates a class warfare and an envy system in their children at an early age, or rappers with their racist rants about rape and everything else. There are several things that are feeding into this, but it’s not a gun and it’s not a flag.”
She added that until the recent debate, younger generations primarily associated the Confederate flag with the TV show “Dukes of Hazzard”: “For them the flag was a symbol of affection for a fun show and some culture known in the South. The unfortunate thing is this discussion is now creating a divide and a dialogue that would have died out decades ago had we not brought it up again over this. We’re continuing a problem that was actually, literally dying out.”
The Confederate flag, she concluded, is “the same distraction that the supposed video tape was for Benghazi.”
Scott discussed the issue with Atkins again on Tuesday, when she guest hosted conservative talk radio host Jan Mickelson’s program:
Atkins told Scott about another incident at a mostly white church in South Carolina, where a man had entered with a gun while a number of his family members were worshipping, which Scott said “we don’t hear about” in the media “because it can’t be made into a racial issue.”
She repeated her point that the shooting in a black church by a gunman with white supremacist views who specifically stated his desire to start a race war wasn’t as much a “racial issue” as an attack on religion. The Charleston shooting, she said, is “being made into more of a racial issue than it was,” when the shooter “could have gone anywhere – mall, sporting event, anywhere — and shot a race of people, but this was in a house of worship.”
Atkins agreed, lamenting that the shooting has led to an effort to remove the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds: “It’s gotten the issue off what the real issue was and put the focus on what the side issue was in this situation.”
“It’s not the presence of a confederate flag at a capitol,” Scott agreed, “it’s the absence of a Christian faith in a community.”
Scott then accused the Confederate flag’s critics of turning a symbol of “fun” into something divisive.
“Creating this stir about the flag now forces dialogue that I think had died out decades ago,” she said. “It starts the divide all over again in younger generations that otherwise would have had absolutely no ill feelings on this flag. For this generation that I know, it was a symbol of Dukes of Hazzard and fun and a culture of the South. So I hate this dialogue that has started that has created a new generation of divisiveness.”
Agreeing that the Confederate flag is “an issue that really was not an issue” until the current debate, Atkins warned that removing the flag from government property could set a precedent that threatens Christianity.
“It was a symbol that this individual used to promote his hatred toward a group of people,” he explained. “And if we’re not careful, what we’re going to see happen, you’ll take fringe groups like Westboro Baptist Church, who supposedly use the word of God to justify their hatred and animosity toward different groups, and if we’re not careful, groups like that will then in turn cause even the word of God to be used as a symbol of hate.”