September 2020 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

North Carolina officials have decided to remove a statue of a white supremacist from the U.S. Capitol and replace it with one of Christian evangelist Billy Graham.

The Capitol contains a section called Statuary Hall, where each state is permitted to erect two statues of people from their state who have done something noteworthy.

North Carolina officials have decided that it’s time for one of its statues to go. The image depicts Charles Brantley Aycock, who was governor of the state from 1901-05. Aycock is mainly known for being a white supremacist, and many North Carolinians argued that he doesn’t deserve this honor.

The state plans to replace Aycock with Graham, a move that has sparked some controversy. Graham is known primarily for being an evangelist for fundamentalist Christianity. Plus, his record on human rights was weak. While Graham wasn’t an overt racist, he did little to advance civil rights during his career. Graham was a popular figure who could have used his considerable social capital to attack racism, but he didn’t do it.

During the presidency of Richard M. Nixon, Graham made anti-Semitic comments while visiting the White House, unaware he was being recorded. He later apologized – when the tape became public 30 years later. And Graham, like many conservative Christians, opposed LGBTQ rights. His views on women’s rights were also often paternalistic.

“We respect that many Christians revere Graham,” AU Senior Adviser Rob Boston told The Forward. “But his legacy also includes derogatory statements about Jews, a crusade against LGBTQ equality, and a less-than-stellar record on advancing civil rights for Black Americans. North Carolina should not swap one divisive, exclusionary figure for another; two wrongs don’t make a right.”