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Confederate Memorial Day backer defends legislation

The man behind a measure to honor Confederate Memorial Day in Georgia says it’s in response to what he calls “Confederate cleansing.” The bill is drawing fire from critics, who say the old Confederacy is unworthy of recognition.  

ATLANTA -- The man behind a measure to honor Confederate Memorial Day in Georgia says it’s in response to what he calls “Confederate cleansing.” The bill is drawing fire from critics, who say the old Confederacy is unworthy of recognition.

Rep. Tommy Benton’s resolution describes the Civil War as a struggle for states rights and individual freedom. It does not mention slavery.

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Rep. Benton (R-Jefferson) decries what he calls the political correctness that has removed Confederate emblems from public places. Those emblems have disappeared because of pressure to recognize that the Confederacy was largely rooted in the struggle to retain slavery. Benton defended his resolution.

"I think in this era of Confederate cleansing it is very appropriate," Benton said. "It's not to honor slavery."

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Benton was a bit combative when we asked him about the measure at the Capitol.

Slavery "was a cause of secession. I don’t think it was a cause of the Civil War," Benton said. "You don't have a war if the south isn’t attacked by the north. Make sure you get that on camera."

Rep. Erica Thomas, chair of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, said the bill was a regrettable "step backward."

Confederate Memorial Day quietly disappeared from the state holiday calendar at the direction of Gov. Nathan Deal. Benton’s resolution would not undo that – but merely encourages citizens to observe the occasion on April 26.

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