Sometimes the Christian Right wins a battle… only to have it backfire on them. For example, they were the ones who pushed to have Christian clubs in public high schools, and that’s the main reason Secular Student Alliance groups are now able to exist (and I predict they’ll spread quickly).
Here’s another perfect example of that idea in action.
There’s a (privately funded) Veteran’s Memorial in (publicly funded) Central Park in King, North Carolina. Since 2004, a Christian flag has flown from the memorial. Because, you know, all veterans are Christians…
***Edit***: Regarding what I said in the paragraph above, it looks like only $90,000 of the $290,000 memorial was paid for with private funds. The rest is presumably taxpayer money, which would make this a public memorial.
Because of potential lawsuits from Americans United and the ACLU (and after an actual veteran complained), the city took down the flag last September.
So how did the Christian right respond? AU explains:
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) intervened and convinced city officials to draw up a new policy that declared a certain flagpole in the park a public forum. Town residents would be allowed to enter a lottery drawing, and, if they won, fly the flag of their choice for a week (as long as the flag contains a symbol recognized by the U.S. military for memorials).
Local officials and their pals in the ADF knew that most people in town would want to fly the Christian flag. Thus, the entire scheme was little more than a ruse to keep the religious symbol flying.
Sounds pretty shady. Conduct a lottery of citizens to see what they want. Let the majority decide what’s best, Constitution be damned. Since the majority of King is Christian, surely that’s a way to keep the Christian flag up there, right?
But here’s the beautiful part.
Some of the lottery winners are now choosing not to fly a flag at all.
[Steven] Hewett chose not to fly any flag, leaving the flagpole at the center of the church-and-state controversy in King unadorned for the rest of the week.
The Christian flag was lowered at 9:01 a.m., with about 20 people watching. There’s now a card at the base of the flag commemorating the service of Hewett’s brother, Paul, who served in the Army. Steven Hewett is a veteran who served in Afghanistan.
“We serve under one flag, the U.S. flag,” Hewett said.
By flying no flags, all veterans are represented, Hewett said.
In addition to Hewett, one other person, Cynthia Becker, has been allowed by the town not to fly a flag.
During the week of June 6, Becker, also chose not to display a flag. Becker was honoring her father, Theodore Becker, who served in the Navy from 1959 to 1962.
Cynthia Becker is a member of P.E.A.C.E. for L.I.F.E., an organization supports the separation of church and state.
“The American flag represents every American and every veteran, and the Christian flag excludes,” Becker said.
The Winston-Salem Journal has a wonderful picture of people taking down the Christian flag at the request of Steven Hewitt:
Suddenly, I have an urge to salute the American flag. It’s amazing how “controversial” it is to honor all veterans instead of just the Christian ones…
Rob Boston of Americans United summarizes why none of this should even be an issue in the first place:
All of this community discord could have been prevented if the town [had] simply stuck to a secular war memorial that honors all dead service personnel. Residents who wanted religious symbolism would be free to incorporate that into a grave marker of some other private memorial.
Men and women from many faiths and none have given their lives to protect this nation and its core values — one of which is religious liberty for everyone. We should honor them all. The types of antics under way in King don’t even begin to do that.
Maybe some of the residents in King will learn something from this. Unlike the commenters on the Journal‘s website…