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Find a map of Tennessee and trace your finger down its middle to the south. There, you'll find Franklin County slung low on the Alabama border. It's a small place. Roughly 8, of the county's 41, inhabitants live in Winchester, the county seat; everyone else lives clustered in smaller, more rural communities. Franklin County is known primarily for being the home of Sewanee: The University of the South simply 'the University of the South' to locals.
GSA co-founder Josh Dailey told me why. I've also been called a faggot and a queer. The clubs also have a well-established legal right to form. But they are not always welcomed, especially in conservative counties. They might want to. You can't tell them no. Wimley, who refused a request for comment, launched a Facebook to oppose the GSA and urged other parents to crowd public school board meetings in protest of the GSA's presence.
MassResistance's founder, Brian Camenker, is a graduate of the University of the South and therefore has long-standing ties to the area. But this culture war isn't just about broader debates on religion or even LGBT rights.
It is a peculiarly Southern conflict. As the nation shifts toward a broad acceptance of marriage equality, the South is increasingly at war with itself. A recent New York Times article examined the trend: Urban areas are moving left while rural areas are pulling further to the right.
There's a generational divide, too. Young Southerners are less likely to be religious and more likely to support LGBT rights than their older relatives. Franklin County, then, is no outlier. It simply happened to catch the country's eye. The county has a bloody past. From toresidents lynched three Black men for alleged crimes against Whites; one was shot and the others burned alive. An NAACP report at the time described one burning in wrenching detail: Locals tied Jim McIlheron to a tree, tortured him with hot irons and castrated him before burning him to death before a crowd of roughly 2, people in Estill Springs, a small community near Winchester.
It took him a half hour to die. Supreme Court ended school segregation. But Franklin County resisted the order. Its public schools remained segregated a full decade after Brown v. Board of Education. Ineight families filed a federal lawsuit to compel the county to adhere to the law. The lawsuit is still technically open, though the county obeyed a judge's order to desegregate in White supremacists no longer burn men alive in Franklin County.
Instead, local prejudice has adopted new tactics—and focused on new targets. Though racism has hardly disappeared in Franklin County or anywhere else, White supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan KKK and the League of the South now speak of a more general conflict between "traditional" Christian, Southern values and shifting social mores. But animus toward the LGBT community has become part of the movement's ideology. This hasn't yet resulted in the sort of vigilante violence that cost Jim McIlheron his life. The mostly White supporters and organizers of the GSA say they haven't received direct threats to their safety.
But the county's troubled history is never far from the surface. One image stands out among the Winchester Herald Chronicle 's photos of a February school board meeting: An older White man stands in front of a battered red pickup truck streaming Confederate and Christian flags.
His biker vest displays a swastika and Nazi SS bolts. Cagle's patches are consistent with those worn by the Soul Survivor Brotherhood, a relatively new biker gang known to have White supremacist members. His travelling spectacle seems more appropriate for a biker rally than a school board meeting.
Cagle, who lives in Franklin County, didn't answer a request for comment. But he did explain his motivation to the Herald Chronicle at the time. That explanation didn't mollify his critics. Inasmuch as Facebook comments prove anything, the comments on the Herald Chronicle 's photo reveal a sharply divided county. Another county resident, Daniel Buckner, praised Cagle's patches, referred to the Holocaust as the "Holohaux" sic and informed a pro-GSA commenter that "The only crosses burned anymore are on private land and are to shine the light of the Lord.
Cagle has Wife want hot sex Sewanee deleted his Facebook. But he and his cluster of defenders aren't the only evidence of White supremacist sympathies in the county. A photo taken by Sewanee resident Lisa Rung at a March school board meeting shows a gray minivan with Franklin County with plates decorated in Confederate flag stickers. The SPLC has classified it as a hate group. The LOS also explicitly defines itself as a socially conservative Christian organization.
According to Rung and a helpful stick figure family sticker, the van Wife want hot sex Sewanee to the Wiedlich family. It is difficult to tell precisely how active this KKK affiliate is, or how many locals belong to it. But there is evidence that White supremacists with ties to other hate groups have been active—with violent.
InCorey Matthews, a Winchester, Tenn. The Franklin County sheriff's department eventually charged four local men with Matthews' murder. One defendant, David Jenkins, was convicted last year. A second defendant, Coty Holmes, was convicted last month. And how do you kick him out? There's a 'beat down' and a 'patch over. Chris Guess, the public affairs officer for the Franklin County Sheriff's Department, rejected the idea that the club controversy had revealed any long-standing problems.
Guess said residents should notify authorities if they feel threatened, but added, "It's just rhetoric. They [White supremacists] have First Amendment rights. He then reiterated his belief that the county has "no ificant issue" with White supremacy and is "not unique.
Guess isn't just the sheriff's department's public affairs officer: He's also on the Franklin County School Wife want hot sex Sewanee, and in that capacity he has proved himself to be one of the GSA's chief antagonists. Earlier this month, he voted to adopt a new district-wide policy on student organizations that requires students to get parental permission before ing any non-curricular club. The measure passed ; the only holdout was Adam Tucker, who represents the town of Sewanee.
Look back to your map. See where Franklin County's terrain wrinkles, far in its northeast corner: That's where Sewanee and the University of the South perch high up on the Cumberland Plateau. Students and faculty affectionately refer to the school as 'The Mountain.
Founded in by Episcopalian clergy, the school is home to a seminary and its motto is scriptural, inspired by Psalm "Behold How Good and Joyful a Thing it is for Brethren to Dwell Together in Unity. It has also traditionally served the scions of the South's upper class. Its stone arches and green qu invoke Oxford and Cambridge and its traditions are equally reminiscent of the Old World.
Upperclassmen who meet certain academic standards are permitted to the Order of the Gownsmen: Members are allowed to wear Black academic gowns to classes, almost a North American version of Oxford subfusc. Despite its European influences, the university is quintessentially Southern—and not just because it inherited Tennessee Williams' estate upon his death. It has also not been spared the struggle between Old and New South. Relations between the school and some conservative alumni became so heated the New York Times covered the saga in The dispute reportedly centered on the perception that the university had decided to move away from its historical Confederate sympathies.
Ina controversial university-owned mace dedicated to KKK co-founder Nathan Bedford Forrest disappeared in disputed circumstances. Gerald Smith, who teaches religion at the school, told the Times he accidentally broke the mace and the school simply decided not to repair it, even though alumni had offered to pay. Administrators also removed flags bearing Confederate imagery from the campus chapel. Over a decade later, the gulf between the school's past and present seems wider than ever—and it's matched by town-gown strain.
Sewanee's Episcopalian seminarians and clergy attended school board hearings in support of the FCHS GSA, which may explain why Guess invoked the school as the source of talk about the area's White supremacist ties. He and his wife send their children to the county's Huntland School, which is public.
It's not difficult to understand why some locals consider Sewanee an elitist enclave. Sewanee and the university are clearly not the only sources of support for the GSA. Many of the activists who rallied behind the club hail from other, smaller communities like Estill Springs, Decherd and Cowan. That's little surprise, since the town of Sewanee contains a mere 2, members of the county's total population, and the university adds only 1, students to the mix. But the socioeconomic and political differences between the university community and the rest of the county are real, and appear to have contributed to the perception that equality for LGBT people is a cause for wealthy, out-of-touch outsiders.
The sight of Sewanee Episcopalians with LGBT activists did not undermine the convictions of the GSA's opponents; it led to no discernible large-scale religious epiphanies, no doctrinal liberalizations. It may soon be home to a second hate group. Though there's no evidence that Wimley, Camenker or Guess hold White supremacist views or intentionally sought the support of White supremacist groups, their fight undeniably attracted the attention of radicals who agree the club is an attack on traditional values.
And those militants seem unlikely to disassociate themselves from the struggle. But for now, the GSA survives. Its supporters are concerned that the county's new parental permission requirement will force students to out themselves in order to participate in the club, and there is talk of legal action.
It's not all bad news: Dailey said there have been some positive improvements at school. Students opposed to GSA initially tore down its flyers, but he reports that this seems to have stopped. He told me he Wife want hot sex Sewanee the fight isn't over—that "community resistance" makes students feel they "have to be careful when not on school grounds.Wife want hot sex Sewanee
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The strange story of Sewanee, the KKK, and a Franklin County Gay/Straight Alliance