Our local newspaper recently published an article on the Ku Klux Klan after Klan literature was dropped off at businesses in our county. The police charged the man who dropped it off with littering, but the charges were dropped because of free speech issues.
It surprised me that the KKK has a presence in this area and it shocked me to find out that their numbers are growing and they are becoming more active. This isn’t the South, after all, and we are very close to the 12th largest city in the U.S. I tend to think of the KKK as the punchline to some nasty joke, not as a viable organization. It seems I may be wrong.
With a bit of online research I learned that the KKK first gained strength in the state in 1920. They appealed to anti-Catholic and anti-foreigner sentiment and promoted themselves as a brotherhood upholding Christian morality. In 1925 the Governor and over half of the General Assembly were members of the Klan. At its height over 30% of the white male citizens of Indiana were members. The Grand Dragon of the Indiana KKK was so powerful that he said, “I am the law.”
It all fell apart when the Grand Dragon was arrested for the brutal rape and second-degree murder of a woman. When the Governor refused to pardon him, he started talking to journalists and a huge ring of bribery and corruption came to light. The Klan never recovered from the resulting wave of resignations and arrests.
This new resurgence of the Klan may be due to the poor economy and issues in the news such as immigration reform and same-sex marriage. The Anti-Defamation League says there has been “a noticeable spike in activity by Klan chapters across the country” and groups have “increased their activity and experienced a rapid expansion in size.”
The Imperial Wizard of the Klan says that the KKK is a Christian group and they believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible. Oddly, he says that the KKK do not burn the cross, they light the cross. He claims this is no different from any church that has a lighted cross on their property. Unlike in the 1920’s, however, most Christian churches today speak out against the message of the Klan. A Methodist pastor in our community said, “Any group that purposely isolates any group by skin color or their ethnic origin goes against the unified message of the body Christ.”
The news is not entirely bad. There is a lot of contention between the various KKK factions, each one saying the others are not the true Klan. They admit that many of the Klansmen in the area have served time in prison, which hopefully means they are being watched by the authorities. They don’t seem to have a coherent message. Much of what they say sounds like what we hear from the Tea Party.
Although the KKK may consist of immature, uneducated men, that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous. We need only look at what happened recently in Norway when an anti-immigration Christian terrorist killed 77 people. We need to speak out against ignorance and bigotry whenever we can. There’s no place in our state for the lies and hate the KKK promotes.