The icon 'was a man whose heart beat with the rhythm of love and social justice,' an impassioned family statement reads

By Nick Romano
August 17, 2017 at 12:50 PM EDT
Credit: Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images

Johnny Cash‘s children — Rosanne, Kathy, Cindy, Tara, and John — released a joint statement addressing the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, after they discovered video of “a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi” sporting a t-shirt with their father’s name.

“We were sickened by the association,” the fervent address, posted to Rosanne’s Facebook page on Wednesday, read.

“Johnny Cash was a man whose heart beat with the rhythm of love and social justice,” the family said, noting his humanitarian recognitions from the Jewish National Fund, B’nai Brith, and the United Nations. “He championed the rights of Native Americans, protested the war in Vietnam, was a voice for the poor, the struggling and the disenfranchised, and an advocate for the rights of prisoners. Along with our sister Rosanne, he was on the advisory board of an organization solely devoted to preventing gun violence among children.”

They consider “his pacifism and inclusive patriotism” to be “two of his most defining characteristics.”

“He would be horrified at even a casual use of his name or image for an idea or a cause founded in persecution and hatred,” the statement continued. “The white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville are poison in our society, and an insult to every American hero who wore a uniform to fight the Nazis in WWII. Several men in the extended Cash family were among those who served with honor.”

Cash’s kids included a quote that they heard continuously from their dad: “Children, you can choose love or hate. I choose love.”

“We do not judge race, color, sexual orientation or creed. We value the capacity for love and the impulse towards kindness. We respect diversity, and cherish our shared humanity. We recognize the suffering of other human beings, and remain committed to our natural instinct for compassion and service,” the message concluded. “To any who claim supremacy over other human beings, to any who believe in racial or religious hierarchy: we are not you. Our father, as a person, icon, or symbol, is not you. We ask that the Cash name be kept far away from destructive and hateful ideology.”

Read the full statement below.

CNN’s Jake Tapper boosted the message on social media. “God bless the family and the memory of Johnny Cash,” he tweeted.

Rosanne Cash responded, “Thank you for posting, @jaketapper. #WeChooseLove.”

A number of musicians have raised their voices after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville last weekend, when some attendees sported Nazi symbols and chanted Nazi slogans. Celebrities, politicians, and activists also blasted President Donald Trump after he claimed counter protesters were “also very violent” and there were “very fine people on both sides.”