Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The State on the resistance to wearing masks in South Carolina during the coronavirus pandemic:
Many South Carolinians who still won’t wear face masks during the ongoing raging COVID-19 pandemic say they don’t want their individual freedoms trampled upon as though they were living in some undemocratic Third World country.
Perhaps someone should break the news to these people that during a recent seven-day period, South Carolina racked up more new COVID-19 cases per every 1 million residents than these authoritarian Third World countries:
Bahrain. Oman. Kazakhstan.
These are the kind of facts that continue to expose the folly of South Carolinians who persist in refusing to wear face masks — even as our state approaches the four-figure mark in deaths related to COVID-19.
Doesn’t it bother the “If I put on a mask, I put away my freedom” crowd that if South Carolina were a country, we’d be considered a more alarming global hotspot for coronavirus than Panama?
Armenia? Brazil? Chile? Or several other nations across the world?
And that’s understandably a source of raw frustration for all of the South Carolinians who are wearing masks, practicing social distancing and doing their part to reduce COVID-19’s spread.
But we can’t give up.
We can’t give up in our efforts to try to persuade more South Carolinians to transform themselves from dangerously stubborn holdouts to duty-minded citizens who accept their responsibility to wear face masks in the midst of a modern-day plague.
We must keep faith that these naysayers across our state will eventually own up to their obligation to our state.
Yes, it is exasperating that while South Carolina continues to break records for daily COVID-19 cases, no number is seemingly high enough to sway some to wear masks.
But we must keep throwing those grim numbers — politely, of course — into the uncovered faces of the skeptics.
Yes, it is maddening that as one local community after another has moved to implement laws requiring their residents to wear face masks in public places, the citizens who won’t can defiantly point out that Gov. Henry McMaster opposes a statewide requirement.
But we must keep pointing out that this is just another example of how local leaders have been way ahead of McMaster in taking decisive action during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yes, it is exhausting to hear and read State Epidemiologist Linda Bell issue yet another heartfelt plea to South Carolinians to simply wear face masks — and realize that her latest appeal will likely be just as studiously ignored by the “unwilling and uncovered” as the previous ones she’s made.
But we must keep encouraging Bell to speak up and speak out — while also giving power to her words by showing how most South Carolinians are embracing and heeding them.
In short, we can’t give up trying to lower the stubborn resistance to wearing face masks in South Carolina — because it remains our best chance of lowering the ominous COVID-19 numbers that make donning masks necessary in the first place.
Besides, “We’re worse than Bahrain!” isn’t exactly the most inspiring slogan for a state, is it?
The Post and Courier on a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that said states must give religious schools the same access to public funding that other private schools receive:
The U.S. Supreme Court decision that private-school advocates hope to turn into huge taxpayer subsidies doesn’t change anything in South Carolina, but it does include an important reminder that our lawmakers can’t hear too many times.
The court’s landmark ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue very reasonably said states that subsidize private schools can’t discriminate against religious schools. In doing so, the court rejected Montana’s so-called Blaine Amendment, one of many such state constitutional provisions that were adopted after a failed 1875 effort to write anti-Catholic funding prohibitions into the U.S. Constitution.
It’s an important victory for religious freedom in states that were discriminating against religious schools. South Carolina hasn’t been one of those states for nearly half a century.
Despite the rhetoric to the contrary by organizations that want to pay parents to abandon our public schools, the Legislature removed the Blaine amendment from the South Carolina Constitution in 1973, replacing a ban on direct or indirect funding for religious institutions with a ban on public funding “for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution” (Article XI, Section 4).
The most obvious thing about that language is that it treats religious and nonreligious private schools the same, as the court just ordered other states to do. The most important thing is that it recognizes the real distinction we can and should make isn’t between religious and nonreligious schools. The real distinction — in both importance to our society and propriety of taxpayer support — is between public and private schools. Our constitution recognizes that, as the immediately preceding section requires, the job of the taxpayers is to support “a system of free public schools” that are “open to all children in the State.”
Now, the constitutional ban hasn’t stopped the Legislature from providing indirect support to private schools. Our state awards college scholarships for students at both public and private colleges and universities. It funds 4-year-old kindergarten programs that are operated by public schools as well as private organizations — both religious and nonreligious.
Both of those programs make some sense because our state never saw providing higher education as a central part of its job, and the Legislature only recently began to recognize that education needs to start long before age 5. As a result, private colleges and child-care centers grew up to meet the demand for pre-kindergarten and post-secondary education, and it was simply easier (and fairer) for the state to subsidize existing programs that meet our standards than to try to duplicate them.
But South Carolina has recognized its responsibility to provide public education since adding that requirement to the 1868 constitution — a duty so important that even the Tillman constitution of 1895 retained it. Although the political and legal opinion of just what that means has changed repeatedly over the decades, and remains in dispute today, our constitution has consistently recognized that the entire state benefits when all of its citizens have some basic level of education — and it suffers when we leave people uneducated.
And this is where we get to the Supreme Court’s important constitutional reminder, courtesy of Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion: “A state need not subsidize private education. But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”
Read that first part again: A state need not subsidize private education.
Private schools, parents who send their children to private schools and lobbying groups that want to defund public education spend a lot of time trying to convince our legislators that South Carolina has an obligation to pay for private schools, through either vouchers or convoluted scholarship programs.
We don’t think that’s wise, since we can’t control what those schools teach or how well they teach it. And as the chief justice just reminded us — by way of an opinion that has the biggest private-school advocates singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” — it’s certainly not a requirement.
The Myrtle Beach Sun News on Confederate symbols:
In the pivotal 1948 presidential election, then SC Gov. Strom Thurmond campaigned against President Harry Truman’s civil rights program.
At the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Thurmond told a receptive audience that measures against lynching and racial discrimination “would undermine the American way of life and outrage the Bill of Rights.”
In July of that year, Thurmond left the Democratic Party at its national convention in July and established the States Rights Democratic Party, known as the Dixiecrats.
While accepting the Dixiecrats’ presidential nomination in Birmingham, Ala., Thurmond declared that “there’s not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the (N-word) race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, into our churches.”
Thurmond went on to capture only four states — including our state — in the 1948 election, which Truman famously won in come-from-behind fashion over Republican candidate Thomas Dewey.
But Thurmond did go on to represent South Carolina for nearly 50 years n the U.S. Senate as a member of the Republican Party.
In his 2018 book “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels,” Jon Meacham used the 1948 campaign as an illustration of Americans’ better angels prevailing in conflicts “between the impulses of good and evil.” Fortunately, the attitudes of South Carolinians are vastly different in 2020 than they were in 1948 — and they are continuing to change and evolve.
People who were inclined to be silent are now speaking up about issues, including the need to reform law enforcement to ensure that people of color are treated the same as white citizens.
The tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis two months ago triggered a global response, including peaceful protest parades in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.
The response suggests there is a fundamental change taking place in attitudes and feelings about relationships with people who may not look like us, about concerns for de facto equality and about the need to truly have justice for all.
In recent weeks alone:
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves removed the Confederate emblem from the state flag.
NASCAR banned Confederate flags from being displayed at its race tracks.
Statues of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and other figures linked to the Confederacy were removed or approved for removal from public places.
The majority of these monuments were removed by government action. Unfortunately, however, a few have been taken down by protesters — which works against their cause just as arson and looting diminish the impact of peaceful protests.
Once the Civil War ended, both Lee and Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, felt the Confederate flag should be put away. Lee urged his troops “to commit to oblivion the feelings” that the Confederate flag engendered; Davis, meanwhile, wrote that the flag should be folded up, laid away and no longer used.
Claims of Southern heritage notwithstanding, the Confederate battle flag was fully usurped by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacy groups and individuals — and in reality it now represents a symbol of hate and domestic terrorism.
Truman warned against dividing the country into sections, and the need “to appeal to people’s best instincts, not their worst ones.” Those best instincts are what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”
May they again prevail.