Matheny bails from speaking to alleged hate group, Niceley still in

State Sen. Frank Niceley plans to speak to an organization labeled as a hate group this weekend, although one of his legislative peers has cancelled his appearance.

Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, said he plans to talk to the Southern National Congress at Fall Creek Falls this weekend about wanting state lawmakers to nominate candidates for U.S. Senate and allowing farmers to grow hemp — two proposals he’s receiving pushback from in the state legislature.

“They’re endorsing my ideas, I’m not endorsing theirs’,” said Niceley. “There’s a lot of a name-calling going around. I don’t pay any attention to that.”

Niceley said he does not consider the SNC, associated with the League of the South, as a hate group. The Southern Poverty Law Center has described the group as “Neo-Confederates.”

State Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, was also scheduled to speak at the event but later decided against it, although he is still listed on the website as a speaker.

“I found out they were the wrong kind of freedom group and cancelled when I researched them further,” Matheny wrote in an email obtained by the Nashville Post. 

David O. Jones, chairman of the SNC, said Matheny did not express his concerns with him, but said he would be out of town and would miss the event.

The SNC, said Jones, is a group “seeking ordered Christian liberty that kind of goes along the lines of the original Constitution of the United States… We believe whatever it says is what it meant and the federal government has gotten way out of control.” He expects up to 70 people at the event this weekend.

Anyone who associates with the group legitimizes its positions, whether or not they agree with them, said Sara Mitchell, a member of the Tennessee Anti-Racist Network.

“It sends the message that Tennessee tolerates hate and that is not a message our legislators should be sending,” she said.