A Republican Alabama lawmaker said he has no plans to step down after days of backlash for posting a photo celebrating the birthday of a Ku Klux Klan leader -- the same day the state honored the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis.
State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, resigned as pastor from Pleasant Hill Baptist Church on Wednesday after a now-deleted Facebook post celebrated a "good time" at Confederate Army Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest's birthday celebration in Selma, The Alabama Baptist reports.
Mel Johnson of the Alabama Baptist Association told the newspaper that Dismukes, who served as a bi-vocational pastor, met with church officials Tuesday prior to stepping down.
Johnson called his actions - -offering an invocation at the event in front of several Confederate flags and a portrait of Forrest -- a "lapse in judgment."
“Perception is reality in the minds of many people,” Johnson told the Washington Post. “We work to shun the very appearance of evil. I’m not saying he had evil intent.”
Dismukes addressed it in a post on Facebook that is no longer up, WSFA reports:
“After a conversation with the association, I resigned from Pleasant Hill Baptist Church not at the request of the church but by choice because I did not want to see the SBC vote Pleasant Hill out of fellowship," Dismukes wrote. "The Lord will lead me to a church at His timing and direction.”
Republican and Democrat lawmakers in the state quickly denounced his post earlier this week; the chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party called it “totally insensitive,” the Montgomery Advertiser reports.
State Rep. Danny Garrett, who is also the state House Majority Whip, tweeted Sunday he couldn’t understand why anyone “in 2020 celebrates the birthday of the 1st KKK Grand wizard,” adding Dismukes' remarks don’t represent that of GOP lawmakers in the state’s Legislature.
The Alabama Democratic Party previously called on Dismukes to resign in late June after he served as a chaplain for the Prattville Dragoons, a chapter of the Sons of the Confederacy, the newspaper reports.
The birthday came as the late Rep. John Lewis, an Alabama native who was a leader in the civil rights movement, was being honored. Dismukes, in a lengthy Facebook post Monday, said his post “was in no way related to disrespecting” Lewis, who died earlier this month from pancreatic cancer at the age of 80.
“That wasn’t even a thought in my mind,” Dismukes wrote. “That is not who I am as a person.”