In the Oct. 31 Sunday LNP, journalists Carter Walker and Russ Walker reported on an August 2020 rally that announced the creation of a white nationalist group called the National Justice Party. The rally was held in a historic barn on Millersville Pike, just outside Lancaster city. The barn is owned by Holocaust denier and Jan. 6 insurrectionist Charles Bausman, who’s hiding from U.S. authorities in Russia because, having illegally entered the U.S. Capitol during the insurrection, he fears arrest. The rally was led by Mike Peinovich and other notorious white supremacists, at least one of whom still was living on Bausman’s farm last month. In last week’s Sunday LNP, Rabbi Jack Paskoff of Lancaster’s Congregation Shaarai Shomayim and Dr. Christian Macedonia, a retired U.S. Army colonel and physician practicing in Lancaster County, called on county residents and leaders to denounce the white nationalists.
The details reported by LNP | LancasterOnline were chilling: A group of white nationalists formed a new political party aiming to defend the “white race,” uphold “a white majority forever” and vilify Jews, people of color and immigrants.
These dangerous bigots play footsie with one of history’s monsters — Adolf Hitler — while nursing their grievances and blaming our increasingly diverse nation for their failures.
Their gathering in Charles Bausman’s Lancaster Township barn was held beneath the radar of law enforcement and township officials. But we all know about it now, thanks to LNP | LancasterOnline’s investigative reporting.
The vile hate speech of Bausman and the white nationalists who gathered on his farm was “not your run-of-the-mill antisemitism,” Rabbi Paskoff noted in his column last Sunday. The “tone of this white nationalist meeting was different. It proclaimed that we are a virus, we are oppressors, that our presence in certain professions should be legally limited. This is nothing short of Nazi ideology. This is another level of antisemitism entirely.”
So where, we must ask, is the public outcry? Where are our elected officials, who should be eager to denounce this appalling hatred? Why the silence from U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, from Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler, from state Sens. Ryan Aument and Scott Martin and other members of Lancaster County’s delegation to Harrisburg? From the Lancaster County commissioners? From Lancaster city Mayor Danene Sorace and Gov. Tom Wolf?
It is not enough to be quietly opposed to white nationalism and antisemitism when you’re an elected official. It is not enough to have condemned such hatred in the past. Your position demands that you express your opposition publicly, every time it rears its ugly head.
Because if you don’t, the hatemongers will interpret your reticence as acceptance.
What do we stand for?
A few days before LNP | LancasterOnline’s investigative report was published, Jews just had marked the anniversary of the 2018 antisemitic murders at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. And last week they marked the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass,” the violent anti-Jewish pogroms in 1938 in Nazi Germany and elsewhere that presaged the Holocaust.
Those events are not mere historic tragedies; they are cautionary tales about what can happen when antisemitism and white supremacy go unanswered. The news of the white nationalist gathering in Lancaster Township was new evidence of hatred playing out in our midst. It demanded fresh and vigorous responses from this county’s civic, political and religious leaders.
As Paskoff wrote last Sunday, “It is long past time for the people of Lancaster County to stand up and publicly say what we are willing to tolerate. ... Lancaster County residents: What are you willing to allow in our community? What are the values that we stand for? What must we vocally and forcefully reject?”
And, as Dr. Christian Macedonia wrote, “Silence, in the face of wickedness, is cowardice.”
Macedonia knows something about courage. He spent more than 30 years wearing a U.S. Army uniform. He saw combat in the second Battle of Fallujah in Iraq in 2004. And, as a physician, he commanded the U.S. Department of Defense’s Gray Team, insisting that the military treat traumatic brain injury as seriously as other bodily wounds.
“We all know people giving aid to this hateful ideology, even if that aid comes in the form of silence,” Macedonia wrote last week. “The willingness of so many ‘good people’ to let wrongs go unanswered — either out of fear or because there is some type of tacit approval or sympathy for the cause — is disheartening. Why did our civic leaders only voice opposition to this when pointedly asked by LNP | LancasterOnline reporters? Why aren’t our leaders lining up to denounce these hatemongers?”
Macedonia wrote that if city and county leaders and federal representatives really want to honor the service of veterans, they should show “some backbone. ... Take up the whole armor and stand firm.”
In terms of morality, speaking out is emphatically the right thing to do. In stark political terms, it is a gimme. Find the nearest microphone; write a letter to the editor; compose a post for social media — even have your spokesperson do it. But go on the record to express your disgust over the fact that white nationalists think Lancaster County is a safe place for them to gather.
In his column, Paskoff urged us to consider why they saw our county as fertile ground for their hatred. “Can it be because far-right rhetoric regarding race and LGBTQ concerns is part of the soundtrack of local school board meetings?” he asked. “What about the ignorance of anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers who have the gall to compare their plight to Jews being forced by the Nazis to wear yellow stars? Perhaps it’s because parts of Lancaster County are willing to elect ‘Stop the Steal’ protesters to our school boards.”
These are questions we ought to consider.
‘A moral and social imperative’
We are grateful that some readers have written letters to the editor on this subject; we’re publishing some of their powerful letters today.
One is from Dennis B. Downey, a Millersville University professor emeritus of history, who knows from his decades of study where the poison of racism and antisemitism can lead.
Downey wrote that he shares with Rabbi Paskoff “the belief that there is a moral and social imperative to oppose gatherings like the recent clandestine convention at the historic barn in Lancaster Township owned by Charles Bausman.”
The Rev. Bob Ierien, pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Lancaster, wrote to address Bausman’s assertion to LNP | LancasterOnline that he is fundamentally motivated by his Christianity.
“To be perfectly clear, it is impossible to be both ‘Christian-centered’ and antisemitic,” Ierien wrote, noting that Jesus was a Jew.
He explained that the “founder of my own tradition, Martin Luther, was a rabid antisemite whose writings against the Jewish people have been used to do enormous damage. That is why we must speak out now, in clear and unequivocal terms, with the message that hate has no place in our community or in our churches.”
Ierien concluded: “I call upon the churches, clergy and Christians of Lancaster County, and especially the Lutherans, to join with me in standing beside our Jewish siblings and affirming with one loud and clear voice: Hate has no place here.”
Last week, members of the Lancaster Theological Seminary faculty posted a statement on the seminary’s Facebook page opposing Bausman and “those who share his anti-Jewish hate-filled ideology.”
Anti-Jewish “propaganda that denies the Holocaust and casts Jews as the enemies of Christianity” are “long-standing and dangerous lies, rejected by the majority of Christian faith traditions — Roman Catholic and Protestant,” the statement declares.
The faculty members wrote that they “stand in solidarity with the Jewish community of Lancaster and throughout the world. We reject any definition of Christianity that aligns our faith with hatred, racism, and nationalism. The vicious and vile tenets of the Bausman group are contrary to the spirit of Christ.”
We laud them for their clear and forceful statement.
Now is not a time to whisper. It’s a time to loudly decry the toxic hatred of Bausman and his ilk. As Rabbi Paskoff wrote last Sunday, “This can’t be a time for appeasement or equivocation. Nothing less than direct condemnation is acceptable.”
We could not agree more. This moment demands a groundswell of condemnation. We hope it materializes.