COLUMBIA, S.C. — A group of South Carolina lawmakers is proposing a series of bills that would punish people who try to remove monuments and would make changes to what's taught in history in schools.
The lawmakers Tuesday unveiled what they call the "Story of America" legislation. Rep. Bill Taylor, Steven Long, and Lin Bennett were among the group that also included retired Marine Maj. Gene. James Livingston, a Medal of Honor recipient for his actions in Vietnam.
The group said they're tired of what they called "cancel culture" and the "woke mob" changing history and taking down monuments. They also cited the "1619 Project" produced by the New York Times that was designed to highlight the effects of slavery and the contributions of Black American on U.S. History. The lawmakers praised the "1776 Project," an effort by the Trump Administration to counter the 1619 Project.
One of the parts of the Story of America is a bill that would withhold money from city or county governments that remove memorial. It would also allow local politicians who do make changes to be charged with "misconduct in office. It would also require the South Carolina Department of History and Archives to approve all wording on historical markers to make sure they're factually accurate.
Taylor pointed to the removal of the John C. Calhoun monument in Charleston last summer as an example of a move that might have been stopped if there were harsher penalties.
"[The monuments] have got to be protected from the small number of people that could cancel out our monuments and pull them down," Taylor said.
Another part of the bill would require the teaching of America's founding documents in sixth through twelfth grade.
Since last year's unrest following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, there was a call for removing other monuments and renaming buildings. Currently, efforts are underway to rename buildings at several state colleges, including the University of South Carolina and Clemson University. There's also a longstanding push to remove the statue of South Carolina Gov. Ben Tillman from State House grounds.
Currently the Heritage Act, a bill passed in 2000, governs the removal of monuments, statues, and the renaming of buildings. It requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature to make those changes.
Last year, however, State Attorney General Alan Wilson said the provision requiring a two-thirds majority to overturn the act and make changes to monuments may go against the state constitution, but the law itself was constitutional.
Taylor said he thinks the solution is to make the Heritage Act stronger to protect what he says is the state's traditions and history.
"That doesn't mean that we can't go back and make it correct today. And I mean not 'politically correct, I mean factually correct, and identify that," he said. "So, you know, just because in 2021 there's a think that we ought to do this or get rid of that--I question that."