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Pastor forced from church for challenging white supremacy says it was "unequivocally" worth it

After speaking out against racism and white supremacy at the MTV Video Music Awards, Rev. Robert Lee IV, descendant of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee, is out of a job. The 24-year-old former pastor of the Bethany United Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, took to the airwaves to announce that “as a […]

By Tom Brennan - September 05, 2017
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Reverend Robert Lee IV speaks out against racism at the MTV Video Music Awards
Reverend Robert Lee IV speaks out against racism at the MTV Video Music Awards

The 24-year-old former pastor of the Bethany United Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, took to the airwaves to announce that “as a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism — America’s original sin.”

Lee called on those “in privilege and power to confront racism and white supremacy head on” in the wake of the white supremacist riot in Charlottesville, Virginia.

He stood up against those who have idolized his namesake and praised the efforts of groups like the Women’s March and Black Lives Matter, as well as the late Heather Heyer, for their efforts in calling out and standing up to bigotry.

Lee’s comments were a bold and brave contrast with Donald Trump’s tepid denunciation of “violence on many sides,” that emboldened hate groups in the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville.

But the resulting press coverage of Lee’s remarks has caused him to step down from his position at his church.

Lee confirmed that leaving was his own choice, but only after the church decided to vote on continuing his tenure, something he described as “deeply hurtful.”

He also called his decision an effort to avoid distraction from “the sacred work of confronting white supremacy.”

That a pastor should suffer any consequences for the decision to stand up for love and speak out against hate is a sad reality of life in Trump’s America.

Still, Lee’s courage is just one of many encouraging signs of resistance. While Trump encourages hate groups and the Republicans in Congress more or less go along with it, local and community leaders across our country have stepped up to fill the void.

From New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s impassioned speech against confederate statues to Baltimore’s quick action removing their own monuments to the massive, peaceful demonstrations against hate speech in Boston, Pastor Lee joins a nationwide, grassroots movement against bigotry.

Trump can defend the supposedly “fine people” who took part in a white supremacist riot. He can pardon a sheriff who, in his own words, ran concentration camps to torture immigrants. He can hold a rally where he lashes out not against Nazis and the KKK, but rather the media and citizens of his own country who’d dare to criticize him.

But there are still good people fighting back, people like the young pastor from North Carolina, who will speak out for justice and fight back against hate — no matter the consequences.

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