Steven Hewett, the Army veteran who won a Bronze Star in Afghanistan, will get his day in court in his legal challenge to a memorial to soldiers in his hometown of King, North Carolina that flies a Christian flag rather than the American flag. The federal judge in the case rejected cross motions for summary judgment in July.
In the lawsuit, Americans United asked the city to remove the display of a Christian flag as well as a Christian-themed statue at the city’s war memorial and to stop promoting Christian prayers at official events held at the memorial.
“A memorial that incorporates Christian symbols and promotes Christian messages fails to honor the sacrifice of all of our veterans,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, in a media statement. “We’re asking the city of King to stop elevating one religion over others.”
Hewett, who received the Combat Action Badge and Bronze Star during his service with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, first raised concerns 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 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.
Anything to maintain Christian privilege, no matter how transparent.