Michael Arrowood
Be Our Guest

In an April 9 letter to the editor, a critic of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and its ongoing cemetery preservation project in Henderson County made a number of misleading and derogatory statements about the organization. The members of Hendersonville’s Walter M. Bryson Camp 70, Sons of Confederate Veterans, would like to set the record straight.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans, founded in 1896, has a current membership of more than 30,000 in all 50 states.

It does in fact receive annual revenues of around $5 million as a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation. It is chartered as an educational, historical and fraternal civic organization open to male descendants of Confederate veterans.

Most activities are carried out through local groups or "camps," which are modestly self-funding. Our volunteers who give of their own time and money are our primary source of support. We have no major assets except our people.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, the nonprofit organization making the claim that "radicals" are "taking over the Sons of Confederate Veterans," was founded by a group of trial lawyers in Montgomery, Ala., in 1971. Its 2004 revenues were $26.8 million in donations and grants, bringing its total cash endowment to $152 million by the end of that year.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s executive director receives a salary in excess of $300,000, and the organization was given a single star, or "poor" rating, by Charity Navigator (a charity ranking service) in 2003, with an overall score of 36.83 out of 100. This self-appointed "watchdog" is ranked as one of the least efficient charities in its category.

One writer has called its gleaming modern headquarters in downtown Montgomery "the Poverty Palace." In actuality, the only thing this oddly-named organization has to do with poverty is alleviating any traces of poverty among its founders and staff. Its primary mission is fund raising, and its method is to exaggerate the extent of right-wing extremism in America. As in so many things in life, follow the money!

What does the Sons of Confederate Veterans do? What are the "radical" changes currently being debated within its ranks? They revolve around how vocal and political the organization should be in its defense of Confederate heritage and history.

What is the bottom line for both factions, the "radicals" and the "conservatives" alike? Teaching history, preserving monuments and conducting commemorative events for "the defense of the Confederate soldier’s good name."

This and other guiding principles of the Sons of Confederate Veterans are stated in the "Charge to the Sons of Confederate Veterans," which can be found in full on our Web site at www.scvcamp70.org. Our meetings are open to the public, we welcome guests and we have no "agenda" but what was clearly stated at our founding more than a century ago.

The people of Henderson County have seen for themselves how we have set our hands and our backs to the work of preserving cemeteries, demonstrating living history and keeping alive the memory of the most crucial pages in American history.

We are all part of your community. We are an organization of patriotic and civic-minded individuals, including many veterans of America’s armed forces.

Why do we "focus on our dead ancestors in cemeteries," our critic would like to know? Because we feel it is our duty, and a proper measure of respect.

Why do we display the many different Confederate flags they carried into battle? We do it to honor their courage and dedication to duty, and we try in some small way to emulate those qualities.

I hope that the people who know us personally and through the work we have been doing will stand up and tell the truth about Camp 70. Our critic is in no way obligated to help us preserve history, but I believe that he is squarely at odds with the vast majority of our residents when he ridicules that history and the resting places of our ancestors.

We in the Sons of Confederate Veterans are very proud of our Confederate ancestors and of the South, and we plan to continue telling their story loud and clear.

On The Web: http://www.hendersonvillenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050417/NEWS/504170308/1014/OPINION