Freethought Today · September 2016

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Christian flag removed

A Georgia courthouse has taken down a Christian flag after hearing from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

An overtly Christian flag on a flagpole boasting an additional cross had been prominently on display next to the judge's bench in a Bryan County courtroom for many years. The flag is a traditional evangelical Christian design, reportedly conceptualized by Protestants in the early 20th century. The white in the flag is said to represent the biblical notions of purity, the blue is supposed to stand for baptism in water and the red is meant to symbolize the sacrifice that Jesus made for humankind.

The religious significance of the cross and the flag display is indisputable, and FFRF had urged its immediate removal.

"An overwhelming majority of federal courts agree that the Latin cross universally represents the Christian religion, and only the Christian religion," FFRF Staff Attorney Elizabeth Cavell wrote to Rebecca Crowe, Bryan County clerk of courts. "And a majority of federal courts have held displays of Latin crosses on public property to be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion."

After agreeing to remove the display, Bryan County officials dilly-dallied for a while, shirking responsibility for actually getting rid of it.

Crowe said the flag was "reluctantly" removed, according to the Christian Today website. "It's not in there any longer," Crowe said. "I'm not sure who removed it or where it is, but it's not there."

Ted O'Neil, assistant editor of the Bryan County News, wrote in an op-ed that he, even as a religious person, was for the removal of the flag.

"I was asked by a few people what I felt about the issue," he wrote. "I'm in favor of removing the flag and anything connected to religion from any and all levels of government. Due to schisms, theological disagreements and stubbornness, there are actually more than 4,000 distinct Christian denominations alone. Whose version do you want government to embrace? Christians and everyone of faith should support the removal of such flags, along with all traces and/or mentions of religion in any and all government action."

But not everyone who chimed in on the subject understood that it was a constitutional issue, not one of aesthetics. The Gospel Herald wrote a somewhat snarky editorial claiming that no one should be offended by an image of the cross.

"It is rather absurd to say that the image of the cross is offensive simply because one does not adhere to the Christian faith, but this seems to be the case when an atheist activist group filed a complaint against a Georgia county courthouse, causing a Christian flag to be removed," the editorial said.

And the Christian News incorrectly thought archaic state law should trump the godless U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1787.

"The Georgia state Constitution, first formally written in 1777 — just one year after the founding of America — acknowledged Christianity and required its leaders to be Christians. '[W]e the people of Georgia, relying upon the protection and guidance of almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution," it reads.

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