U.S. Navy Ship Hoists Christian Flag Above American Flag

The USS Arlington is described this way on its Facebook page:

We are the Navy’s eighth amphibious transport dock ship in the San Antonio class. Named for Arlington County, Va., where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, which killed 184 people, the USS Arlington is one of three ships named in honor of the heroes and victims of September 11.

Very symbolic.

So what’s up with this image and description just posted on the page?

Quartermasters Seaman Rashaun Plowden and 2nd Class Mary Carlton raise a church pennant above the American flag during worship services aboard USS Arlington (LPD 24) on Jan. 13, 2013.

Who knew Navy ships were Christian…?

I don’t care if a group of Christian naval officers hold a worship service for themselves. They have that right.

But I’ve never seen a Muslim or atheist or Hindu or Jewish or any non-Christian symbol hoisted above the American flag before, certainly not on one of our Navy’s vessels. (I’d love to be proven wrong if this is a normal occurrence for people of other faiths…)

In fact, one city’s website explaining how flags should be flown says that “When other flags are flown from the same halyard, the U.S. flag should always be at the peak.”

***Update***: Reader David writes:

Im writing to you as a former member of the Royal Navy of just over four years, this is actually correct procedure when flying this flag (THE USN and the Royal Navy follow the same flag procedures), this is because its not actually a Christian flag as such but is that of the Chaplaincy and as such is considered a non combatant and is protected during war, so in theory a ship flying this flag on a Sunday cannot be fired upon during war as part of the Geneva convention.

The reason its flown above the US flag is due to the flags neutrality and therefore superseding that of the Country’s flag indicating that it is neutral at this point, ie it overrides the Stars and Stripes.

I wish my fellow Atheists would do some research in matters like this rather than rush to conclusions.

Curiously enough, the image/caption were removed from the ship’s Facebook page. Which seems like a strange thing to do if everything is on the up-and-up.

***Update 2***: David pointed me to this site which states:

When it is displayed from the same flagpole with another flag — of a state, community, society or Scout unit — the flag of the United States must always be at the top except that the church pennant may be flown above the flag during church services for Navy personnel when conducted by a Naval chaplain on a ship at sea.

That’s a weird rule… but it seems like whatever happened on the boat was within the regulations.

(Thanks to Lorelei for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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