What Do You Do If There Are No Statues Left to Tear Down?

Can of worms

Step #1: Reinterpret the Confederate statues;

Step #2: Remove the Confederate statues from the public square;

Step #3: Prevent those who want the statues from having them. Decapitate the statues, melt them down, or desecrate them in art and museum displays.

What’s left? Where else is there to go?

Step #4: Take away tax-exempt status from a prominent organization dedicated to preserving the statues.

SB517 and HB 568 would eliminate the exemption from state recordation taxes for the Virginia Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) as well as the tax exemption for real and personal property owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The House Bill passed the House Finance Committee in a 12 to 10 (presumably party-line) vote.

My colleague Steve Haner reprimands me for defending symbols of the Confederacy. It’s a losing political proposition, he says. It plays into the hands of Democrats in a state whose population is now dominated by racial/ethnic minorities and out-of-staters. The percentage of White descendants of Confederate soldiers is steadily shrinking. In the minds of a majority, “Southern heritage” has become synonymous with racism and slavery, not courage and sacrifice. As much as I sympathize with the goal of preserving and augmenting all of Virginia’s heritage, I must agree that defending Confederate statues is not a great way for Republicans and conservatives to expand their political base.

But I must raise one point: what if the General Assembly actually passes this bill? Attacking the tax-exempt status of the United Daughters of the Confederacy creates a dangerous precedent. What legal or logical principle would stop the legislature from canceling the tax-exempt status of any nonprofit organization? If Democrats revoke the tax-exempt status of the UDC, what would prevent Republicans, if they come back into power, from yanking the exemption for a local chapter of Black Lives Matter, or the NAACP, or the Council for American Islamic Relations?

The bills are born of bitter spite, and they open an ugly can of worms.