A Tennessee school board has been asked by the Freedom From Religion Foundation to remove a Christian flag from its meetings after a concerned local resident contacted FFRF.
The Unicoi County Schools Board of Education has displayed the flag at its board meetings since at least 2014. FFRF is a national watchdog overseeing separation of church and state issues.
“The Christian flag being displayed during public school board meetings unabashedly creates the perception of government endorsement of Christianity,” FFRF Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert writes in her letter to the board. “The display of this Christian flag is a brazen affront to the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.”
The Christian flag, designed by Protestants in the early 20th century, features a Latin cross, and each of the flag’s three colors represent a different aspect of Christianity: blue refers to the baptism in water, white represents biblical conceptions of purity and red signifies the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
“Courts have continually held that school districts may not display religious messages of iconography in public schools,” Markert writes. “A majority of federal courts have held displays of Latin crosses on public property to be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.”
“The presence of this Christian symbol sends a message not only that the school board inappropriately endorses Christianity, but that non-Christian children and parents in the community are disfavored. That’s utterly shocking and unacceptable,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
FFRF has more than 23,000 members, including nearly 300 in Tennessee.