Donations for Christian school funneled through alleged hate gro - WSMV News 4

Donations for Christian school funneled through alleged hate group in Tennessee

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A News 4 I-Team investigation found contributions for a home school Christian association were funneled through an alleged hate group.

Some of those donors gathered at a West Nashville restaurant for a Bible study session Wednesday morning. But the conversation focused on where their money was going.

“I’ve already apologized to these men because their names should not be sullied because of something I did,” said David Jones, the Bible study leader.

The I-Team found Jones was funneling these men’s donations meant for a Christian home school network through the Mary Noel Kershaw Foundation, a nonprofit deemed by the Southern Poverty Law Center to be a Neo-Confederate Hate Group.

The foundation funds another group called the League of the South, which the SPLC also labeled a hate group.

People bearing the symbol of the League of the South were present at the protests in Charlottesville, VA.

In one image, Michael Hill can be seen at the protest. Hill is the secretary of the Mary Noel Kershaw Foundation and his name is listed right under David Jones’ name.

David Jones is the president of the Mary Noel Kershaw Foundation. He also had serious explaining to do with his donors from Bible study, who have given more than $11,000 to the home schooling entity, but unbeknownst to them, through the Kershaw foundation since 2012, according to tax records.

“Do you think you should have told them and been more transparent?” asked reporter Alanna Autler.

“Hindsight’s always 20/20,” Jones replied.

“But when we’re dealing with some groups that are considered hate groups….” Autler said.

“Again, I was not thinking of it as a hate group at that time,” Jones said.

Ten years ago the I-Team first exposed Jones as the Tennessee chairman of the League of the South.

Jones is also the chairman of the Southern National Congress, according to his LinkedIn profile. The Southern Poverty Law Center also considers SNC a hate group.

Jones told his Bible study group Wednesday he was stepping down from the Mary Noel Kershaw Foundation. He told the I-Team he left the League of the South two years ago.

“I don’t want to taint my school or my ministry by an association that I never really thought that through,” Jones said.

Regardless of what Jones meant by “not thinking it through,” he came clean to his donors.

“They were visibly, noticeably, understandably upset that the Kershaw Foundation was then declared to be a racist or hate group, which I could appreciate their position there,” Jones said.

“Do you think the Kershaw Foundation is a racist hate group?” Autler asked.

“How could they be a hate group? They’re a foundation,” Jones said.

“They give money, though--” Autler said.

“They give money…they gave a huge portion…exactly the amount of what they gave to the school was given to the school," Jones said.

While Jones may be stepping away from the foundation, he said he’s staying with his school program, the Bible study, and teaching the true word of God.

“Is it the Christian thing to do to not tell members of your Bible study their money was going through the Kershaw Foundation?” Autler asked.

“Never thought of it at the time,” Jones said. “It was a mistake on my part."

The people the I-Team spoke to did not want to go on camera. Because they claim they were misled about their donations, we will not be naming them.

But on Wednesday evening, one of those donors issued a statement to News 4. Former U.S. District Judge Robert Echols addressed the situation:

When I was informed by news media that an organization affiliated with hate groups listed me as a donor, I was horrified. When I made the contributions, at the request of my Bible study leader, I believed that I was making donations to a Christian school and that my financial support would help families.  

My past service as a United States District Judge and experience dealing with civil and criminal legal cases is a tangible expression of my dedication to upholding the law.  I would never support any organization that promotes violence, hatred or racism. With other Americans, I am horrified by the actions of hate groups in Charlottesville, including the League of the South.

I am very sorry that my philanthropy has been associated in a negative context.  I have a long history of supporting education, my community and my profession, and will continue to give to organizations that make the world a better place.

Echols currently works at Bass Barry & Sims. The firm also issued a statement on Wednesday:

Our firm believes the views espoused by hate groups such as this one are deeply offensive and abhorrent. We condemn any organization that promotes hate and racism. We expect everyone affiliated with our firm to conduct themselves according to our values, which are rooted in integrity, fairness, inclusion and respect. That is why, as soon as we learned about this news story, we launched our own internal investigation. We are taking all necessary steps to address this issue.

Click here to read Jones’ resignation letter to the Kershaw Foundation.

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