A Georgia Republican is sick and tired of hearing criticism of the Confederacy -- and he's introducing legislation intended to preserve its remaining symbols around the state.
State Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) is sponsoring bills to recognize Confederate Memorial Day and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s birthday as state holidays, and also to restore the names of roads honoring Confederate soldiers that have been changed since 1968, reported the Athens Banner-Herald.
He also wants to change the state constitution to prevent things such as a proposed Martin Luther King Jr. memorial from distracting from Stone Mountain State Park being intended to honor the Confederacy.
“I’m tired of the anti-Confederate rhetoric toward Stone Mountain and any other Confederate monument that’s out there,” Benton said.
Several southern states, including Georgia, and a number of retailers removed Confederate flags and other symbols after a white supremacist who displayed the flag gunned down nine black worshippers at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in June.
“I refer to that more as cultural terrorism than anything," Benton said. "They’re attacking us for no reason at all. We’ve not done anything to provoke them or anything else.
He compared the decision by retailers, governors and state legislators deciding not to prominently display or sell the flags to Islamic State militants destroying historic sites and relics.
Benton, a retired middle school teacher, often sponsors bills to honor the Confederacy and its leaders.
The lawmaker insisted he was not racist, but the former teacher also says the Civil War had little to do with slavery and denies the Ku Klux Klan was racially motivated.
Benton said the Civil War was fought over unspecified business regulations, and he described the KKK as a vigilante group that was not specifically focused on race.
“It made a lot of people straighten up,” he said of the KKK. “I’m not saying what they did was right. It’s just the way things were.”
The GOP lawmaker conceded that his opponents were free to disagree with his historical analysis.
He suggested that his legislative opponents, which include many black Democrats, are racist for opposing his measures to honor Confederate figures as American heroes like George Washington.
“We’re entitled to our heritage just like other people are entitled to theirs, and there seems to be an attempt to do Confederate cleansing," Benton said.
Benton's bills have not attracted any co-sponsors.