WASHINGTON – The National Park Service is reviewing a video presentation at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington that conservative groups say portrays the former president as a supporter of modern-day liberal causes like gay rights, abortion rights and the modern feminist agenda.
"It's political correctness par excellence," said Rev. Louis Sheldon, chairman and founder of Traditional Values Coalition. "This is a first-class inversion, perversion of Abraham Lincoln."
But some citizens who viewed the tape say they don't think it distorts the president's beliefs.
Nonetheless, Sheldon's son Phil Sheldon, who runs the Web site ConservativePetitions.com, has launched a national effort to get the video removed. ConservativePetitions.com has posted an online form where concerned citizens can sign on to demand the National Park Service remove the video.
Calling the video "an outrage" and "shamelessly slanted," "a disgraceful revision of history" and "pure propaganda designed to equate abortion and homosexual rights with the civil rights movement," the petition says "the video blatantly suggests America's 16th president would have supported modern-day, left-of-center political causes."
At the center of the controversy is an eight-minute long video played in the Lincoln Legacy Room located in the bottom of the monument.
The video is narrated by a voice that is supposed to be President Abraham Lincoln's as he takes viewers through various periods from the Civil War to the civil rights era and beyond. The video shows protests and gatherings that have taken place at the memorial throughout the years — a popular spot for such gatherings since it lies at the opposite side of the National Mall from the U.S. Capitol.
It also plays popular speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. and shows Americans protesting Jim Crow laws, which barred African-Americans from access to employment and from public places such as restaurants, hotels and other facilities.
But, with Lincoln saying phrases such as, "I believe I've made some marks for the cause of civil liberty," the video also shows abortion rights protestors like NARAL-Pro Choice America and other groups carrying signs with phrases such as "Keep Abortion Legal," "Gay and Lesbian Sexual Rights" and "The Lord Is My Shepherd and Knows I'm Gay."
Lincoln served as Republican president of the United States from 1861 to 1865. He is perhaps best known for leading the Union in the Civil War and issuing the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which declared slaves free.
Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865, just over a month after his second inaugural address in which he said: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds." Those words are inscribed on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial.
But Traditional Values Coalition and the Concerned Women of America say to put the struggle for civil rights on the same level as that of abortion and gay rights is warping Lincoln's words.
"[Lincoln] does not represent a mixture of the right to say that abortion is moral or that homosexuality is a viable life alternative," Sheldon said.
Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., also expressed concern over Lincoln's portrayal and called the administration, asking for it to be reviewed, his spokesman said.
"He had some concerns with some of the images and perhaps an insinuation that President Lincoln … would have supported some liberal positions that weren't necessarily the case," Tiahrt spokesman Chuck Knapp said.
The National Park Service this week said it was reviewing the tape because of these concerns. Sheldon said that result likely came from a phone call he made to the White House.
But some tourists who viewed the video said they don't see what's wrong with the presentation.
"A lot of people have expressed their opinions here at the Lincoln Memorial," said Frank Butwin of Toledo, Ohio. "I think Lincoln stood for all kinds of rights."
As a president so opposed to anyone being enslaved, "he believed in the most freedom for everybody," said Cara Couture of Fairfax, Va.
Couture said she understood the video to be about the different issues that have faced America since Lincoln's time and said it showed that "there's always a consistent stream of people standing for what they believe in."
"The issues may change, but the fact that people have the right to stand up for what they believe in doesn't change just because we're in a different era," Couture said.