Sunday, August 17, 2008

Seldom Seen Background of Attorneys In Flag Controversy

There's a few factors not to be read in media reports regarding the Anderson County federal lawsuit filed by a student against the school system, claiming his First Amendment rights were violated because school officials sent the student home for repeatedly wearing clothing the system deemed in violation of the school's dress policy - clothing depicting a Confederate flag.

The now-former student, Tim Defoe, hired as attorneys representatives of a group called the North Carolina-based Southern Legal Research Center: Knoxville-based attorney Van R. Irion and SLRC founder Kirk D, Lyons. The SLRC has constantly taken up similar cases with the constant arguments of the "freedom of speech" variety.

The SLRC site list multiple legal battles on such cases, though with typically unfavorable and confusing results (as noted by the the Southern Poverty Law Center).

Lyons himself is a most controversial figure, with reports from the Southern Poverty Law Center that Lyons was married some years back in the Idaho-based Aryan Nations Compound, and has often attempted to join legal battles involving members of the neo-Nazi skinhead groups like The Order, and aiming to link himself, as mentioned above, to a variety of high-profile cases.

The Sons Of Confederate Veterans also has been split by Lyons' involvement, as Lyons' goals often go far beyond preserving 'heritage or history', as Lyons makes claims that :

He defines himself as "an unreconstructed Southerner from Texas and a Christian." That means, he said, "that my family didn't surrender in 1865 and I haven't surrendered."

Mr. Lyons said that if he had defended Klansmen and neo-Nazis, it was because they, like all Americans, deserve representation. If he has spoken to extremist groups, he said, it is because they have shown interest in his work.

That said, he admits preferring that the country "be run with Christian, European traditions." He also admits disapproval of his brother's marriage to a Filipino.

Some of Mr. Lyons's opponents said they suspected that his real goal was to use increased influence in the Sons to win financial backing for his law firm. As it is, the vast majority of the firm's $200,000 budget is generated by his regular solicitations of the organization's chapters and members. But his work, he said, is hardly making him rich, and he takes a salary of only $36,000.

Mr. Lyons, who now holds a lesser leadership post in the Army of Northern Virginia, seems to hold considerable support within the Sons. Roger W. McCredie, the group's chief of heritage defense, backs him because "he has succeeded in making other people see that instead of always reacting, we have got to seize the initiative." Patrick J. Griffin 3rd, the immediate past commander in chief, said he admired Mr. Lyons because "it takes a true person of character to stand up and defend unpopular individuals."

Using black Southerners as a model, Mr. Lyons said, he will continue to assert "that Confederate Southern Americans are no longer going to take the back seat of the bus."

"A lot of people have asked Southerners, `Why do you keep fighting the war?' " he said. "Because a lot of people haven't stopped attacking us, that's why. We're tired of being second-class citizens and the stereotype for our good friends in Hollywood and the media. And we're tired of being the whipping boy for the race problems in this country."

The strategy of defining a school dress code policy as a Constitutional issue seems to have initially been a winner in Tennessee, as the jury in Anderson County ended up in a deadlock.

I would hope the local news media in East Tennessee might decide to dig deeper in to the players in this federal suit to better inform the public of what agenda is truly being pushed here.

(Note: My thanks to a reader who pointed out the SLRC board and goals via an email. Also, I am keenly aware this post is likely to attract the worse kinds of comments and attacks. Such does not detract from the fact the above mentioned attorneys and organization have backed Defoe's legal efforts.)

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