A lawsuit filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State on behalf of Army veteran Steven Hewett against his home town of King, North Carolina, over the flying of a Christian flag over a war memorial will go to trial. The judge in the case rejected motions for summary judgment because of genuine questions of both fact and law.
A dispute over a Christian war memorial in the city of King, N.C., deserves to go to trial, a federal court has ruled.
The court also ruled that several of the city’s practices with respect to religious memorial ceremonies violate the separation of church and state.
U.S. District Judge James A. Beaty ruled today that many issues raised in the lawsuit are compelling and should go to trial. The lawsuit, Hewett v. City of King, was filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State on behalf of Steven Hewett, a decorated veteran of the war in Afghanistan…
Hewett, who received the Combat Action Badge and Bronze Star during his service with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, first complained about King’s overt promotion of Christianity in July 2010. A non-Christian, he asked for the removal of the Christian flag from the city-sponsored memorial out of respect for the many non-Christian veterans who have served their country.
City officials rejected Hewett’s request, and community residents who learned of the controversy also besieged the council with demands that the Christian flag remain in place.
After a complaint from Americans United, the city council voted in September 2010 to remove the Christian flag, but its absence was temporary.
In November 2010, the city – following advice from the Religious Right legal group the Alliance Defending Freedom – created a “limited public forum” in which a flagpole at the veterans’ memorial was reserved for a rotating group of pre-approved flags. The city conducted a lottery and selected 52 flag applications, one for each week of the year.
Americans United says in its lawsuit that this so-called public forum is a sham. The Christian flag has flown at the memorial for 47 out of 52 weeks in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
This is clearly a sham designed only to ensure that the war memorial is perceived as exclusively Christian.