LEESBURG, Va. — A town council member in Virginia has been under fire after declaring last week that it wasn’t human effort alone that ended American slavery, but that God “touched the hearts of men” to direct the government to put an end to the injustice.
Leesburg Town Councilman Thomas Dunn spoke via telephone on Tuesday during an hours-long public hearing on creating a town Diversity Commission, during which time local NAACP President Phillip Thompson also presented his thoughts on racism.
At one point, a speaker asserted that the government isn’t the answer to solving racial problems, prompting Thompson to rebut the notion.
“Without government, I’m still in the fields picking cotton,” Thompson stated, according to the Loudoun Times.
But Dunn chastised Thompson as he agreed with the previous speaker that government is not the answer.
“Shame on you, Mr. Thompson, for throwing slavery into this discussion,” Dunn said. “There are people who feel that . . . government is supposed to be the answer to everything, and Mr. Thompson, I don’t believe that government freed [the] slaves we had in this country.”
He then asserted that it wasn’t solely human effort that ended slavery, but the hand of God ruling in the affairs of men.
“That was an evil that this country had. It was the hand of God touching the hearts of man that freed those slaves,” Dunn stated. “And it’s the same hand of God touching the hearts of man that will bring unity within diversity. It’s not government.”
The councilman, who abstained from voting on the commission, proceeded to state that just as God moved upon the abolitionists to end slavery, He must also move in the hearts of the people if racial tensions are to end.
“If you think the people in this room are going to be able to make a change in any shortfalls that we have and how we handle different cultures and races, number one, that’s holding yourself up too high. That has to come from God. That healing comes from God,” he continued. “Jesus said ‘I give you one commandment, and that is to love one another.’ He could have said, ‘Go out and create a diversity commission,’ but He didn’t. He said you go out and love one another, not rely on government to do that. If government was the best answer, He could have said that.”
But following his statements, Thompson said that he was “offended on several levels” by Dunn’s remarks.
“I wasn’t offended just as an African American, but also as a lawyer,” Thompson stated. “[T]he 13th Amendment is pretty clear. … He should have just said I disagree with you.”
Dunn clarified further to the Washington Post that while he understands that government took action to end slavery, he believes that their inspiration came from God.
“When you read the comments of the men who voted to pass the 13th Amendment, you will find they were led by God to correct a moral not a legal wrong. Lincoln clearly felt that way,” stated. “Of course there was a government document involved called the Constitution. I feel much of our government has been ordained and established by men under the influence of God.”
The commission was approved 5 to 1.