The Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking a Bradley County judge in Warren, Ark., to remove a flag reading "Appeal to Heaven" from the courthouse flagpole, calling it a sectarian symbol that indicates government endorsement of Christianity.
The flag currently flies at the Bradley County Courthouse, directly below the Arkansas state flag.
FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott wrote Judge Keith Neely last week that "The display of this patently religious symbol on County property confers government endorsement of Christianity, a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause."
The "Appeal to Heaven" flag is now associated with the recent Appeal to Heaven movement, whose adherents "honor the Lord by supporting candidates for public office who are believers in Jesus Christ, who regularly attend and display a commitment to an evangelical, Gospel-centered church, and who will commit to live and govern based on biblical . . . principles."
Elliott cited a lawsuit filed in 2012 over a Christian flag flown by a North Carolina city, which ended up settling the lawsuit for $500,000 after incurring $50,000 in legal expenses. Elliott pointed out that those costs could have been avoided had the city simply removed the flag as requested.
"Our government is prohibited from endorsing one religion over another, or from endorsing religion over nonreligion," explained FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "This flag belongs on a church flagpole, not at a county courthouse."
FFRF is a national state/church watchdog founded in 1978, with more than 22,500 members nationwide, including members in Arkansas. FFRF was contacted about the violation by a local complainant offended by the message.