General Robert Lee v. Rev. Robert Lee
WINSTON-SALEM, NC – In Winston-Salem, North Carolina,  the great-great-great-great nephew of the infamous Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee is now being pushed out of his church for being an outspoken opponent of white-supremacist and for being a champion for racial equality. The Civil War general’s statue, and place in history, were heavily focused on during the deadly white-supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this summer and his spirit continues to be in the national spotlight.
Last week, on August 27, 2017, Rev. Robert Wright Lee IV of at Bethany United Church of Christ, gave a moving speech at the MTV Video Music Awards in which he voiced support for Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March, and racial equality in the United States. He was at the awards show to introduce the mother of a woman killed during demonstrations over a General Lee statue in Charlottesville.
The Video Music Awards speech was not the first time the Lee’s distant nephew had taken a strong stance against white supremacy or the legacy of his great-great-great-great uncle. In his speech, Rev. Lee spoke out against all forms of discrimination, including national origin discrimination, In recent weeks, Rev. Lee has interviewed with other media outlets such as BBC and NPR about the removal of the Confederate monument after the events in Charlottesville. Clearly, the awards broadcast reached a larger, and perhaps less welcoming, audience that Rev. Lee’s previous appearances.
Aligning with the politics of the evening, Rev. Lee’s speech was particularly dynamic as the Reverend is a descendant of General Lee, and General Lee’s statue is in the middle of controversy.
Now, Rev. Lee has announced that he is stepping down from his pulpit as some of his members of the church were upset with his remarks and felt like it brought unnecessary attention to the church. In a letter to his church, Rev. Lee explained:
My presence at the church as a descendant of Robert E. Lee and an outspoken opponent of White Supremacy had already attracted attention, but with my appearance on MTV, the media’s focus on my church reached an all-time high. A faction of church members were concerned about my speech and that I lifted up Black Lives Matter movement, the Women’ s March, and Heather Heyer as examples of racial justice work.
I want to stress that there were many in the congregation who supported my right to free speech, yet were uncomfortable with the attention the church was receiving. The church’s reaction was deeply hurtful to me.
In the letter’s closing Rev. Lee reaffirmed his commitment to “confronting white supremacy in all its forms.” He ended stating:
My calling and my vocation has led me to speak out against violence and oppression in any form, and I want to especially challenge white Christians in America to take seriously the deadly legacy of slavery in our country and commit ourselves to follow Jesus into a time of deep reflection, repentance and reconciliation.
Rev. Lee further explained that because his church planned to vote on his tenure after the backlash began, he “reluctantly” stepped down from the pulpit.
Racial discrimination claims are on the rise in recent years as the Black Lives Matter campaign and other movements march towards greater equality for all. Moreover, even though a certain person is not a member of a specific minority class, like Rev. Lee, such non-members may nevertheless be subject to unlawful discrimination.
Such discrimination often takes place in the workplace. Fortunately, the New York City Human Rights Law and the New York State Human Rights Law, prohibit discrimination based on race in any institution, including the workplace.
The New York City sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC, have years of experience bringing claims of racial discrimination on behalf of our clients. Working together with our Philadelphia sexual harassment attorneys, we have recovered millions for our clients. If you feel you have been discriminated against because of your race, or sexually harassed at work, please give our talented attorneys a call, toll free, at 1877 4 NYLAWS, for your free consultation.

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