A town council member in Leesburg, Virginia, is under fire from a local NAACP leader after stating that God, and not government, was responsible for ending slavery, claiming that it took a higher power to change peoples' hearts.
Thomas S. Dunn II (Leesburg Town Council)
Thomas S. Dunn II, a member of the Leesburg Town Council, made this claim last Tuesday at a government meeting during a discussion about a proposed diversity commission.
"It’s the … hand of God touching the hearts of man that will bring unity within diversity, it’s not government," Dunn said, proceeding to abstain from the vote, which passed 5-1-1.
Speaking in favor of the commission, which would streamline outreach to minority communities in an effort to create a more inclusive environment, Phillip Thompson, a local NAACP leader, said that — had the government not intervened in civil rights — he would still be a "slave in the field picking cotton."
This was a comment Thompson made while pushing back against the notion that the government shouldn't involve itself in civil rights matters — and Dunn made it known that he didn't much appreciate it.
"Shame on you, Mr. Thompson, for throwing slavery into this discussion," said Dunn, who was participating in the public meeting via telephone, according to the Post. "There are people who feel that ... government is supposed to be the answer to everything, and Mr. Thompson, I don’t believe that government freed our slaves we had in this country."
He continued, "That was an evil that this country had. It was the hand of God touching the hearts of man that freed those slaves."
Dunn went on to say that God is the only force that can change racism and that individuals cannot truly amend "any shortfalls" surrounding culture and race, as only a higher power can.
"Jesus said, ‘I give you one commandment, and that is to love one another,'" he said. "He could have said, ‘go out and create a diversity commission,’ but he didn’t."
Leesburg Today has his full remarks:
"Shame on you Mr. Thompson for throwing slavery into this discussion. There are people who feel that government, I guess, is supposed to be the answer to everything. I don’t believe government freed our slaves that we had in this country. That was an evil that this country had. It was the hand of God touching the hearts of man that freed those slaves, and it’s the same hand of God touching the hearts of man that will bring unity within diversity. It’s not government.
If you think the people in this room are going to be able to make a change in any shortfalls that we have and how we handle different cultures and races, number one that’s holding yourself up too high. That has to come from God. That healing comes from God. Jesus said ‘I give you one commandment, and that is to love one another.’ He could have said, ‘Go out and create a diversity commission,’ but he didn’t. He said you go out and love one another. Not rely on government to do that. If government was the best answer, he could have said that. I don’t know why folks feel that race or multiculturalism is something causing the stumble in their ability to access the services government is already providing. I don’t know why folks feel government has to give their race legitimacy. I don’t believe that."
In an interview with the Post, Thompson disagreed with this sentiment, explaining that he believes that civil rights matters have traditionally been solved through government action.
"I’m an attorney, and this is basic constitutional law: the 13th Amendment ended slavery. I thought it was just a callous, dismissive remark on his part," he said. "If you disagree [with the diversity commission], we can discuss our disagreement. But when you try to take it to this high level and dismiss it based on ‘God will fix it,’ that’s just being disingenuous and not constructive at all."
Dunn also responded to the Post, claiming that, though he knows the government ended slavery, he believes that the individuals who voted to pass the 13th Amendment were led by God to "correct a moral not a legal wrong."
"Of course there was a government document involved called the Constitution," he wrote in an email to the Post. "I feel much of our government has been ordained and established by men under the influence of God."
What do you think? Let us know below.
(H/T: Washington Post)