There’s a growing call to remove the Confederate flag from government property. Politicians, both Democrat and Republican, are calling for the flag to go. Individuals are adding their voices too — there’s a petition circulating that is nearing its goal of half a million signatures. (As of 7:30 p.m Sunday night, there were 433,435. By 8:15, another 12,000 had been added — that’s more than 266 per minute).
The petition is addressed to South Carolina’s Governor, Nikki Haley, as well as to the South Carolina State House and State Senate. However, South Carolina is one state that is serious about its Confederate heritage: there’s even a law passed in 2000.
“The Infantry Battle Flag of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia (Confederate Battle Flag) displayed on the Confederate Soldiers’ Monument on the State House grounds, and any monument, marker, memorial, school, or street erected or named in honor of the Confederacy or the civil rights movement located on any municipal, county, or state property shall not be removed, changed, or renamed without the enactment of a joint resolution by a two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the General Assembly approving same.”
Incidentally, that law may point you to one key error pointed out in the “heritage, not hate” argument so frequently used: the flag commonly known today as the Confederate flag was not known by that name during the Civil War. In fact, there were several different Confederate flags — according to Civil War‘s History of The Confederate Flag, the currently popular flag is derived from a flag used by Confederate armies in Virginia, and officially adopted as a symbol of the confederacy only post-war.
In fact, the currently popular flag isn’t even consistent with this Virginian Confederate flag — the one designed as a battle flag was square, and the one typically seen now is rectangular.
Of course, a lack of historical accuracy isn’t the reason for calls for the flag’s removal — it just happens to defy a certain common claim for keeping it in place.
On Saturday, a large gathering at the South Carolina State House protested and called for the removal of the flag.
— deray mckesson (@deray) June 20, 2015
— Allen Wallace (@allenwallace) June 20, 2015
— Joel D. Anderson (@byjoelanderson) June 20, 2015
The South Carolina law that keeps the Confederate flag in place requires a two-thirds majority of each the House and Assembly, so the people speaking up could bring down the flag. According to The Hill, S.C. Republican Norman “Doug” Brannon has stated that he will draft a bill to that effect. The question will then become whether enough lawmakers will listen to the public and vote for removal.
In the meantime, it should be clearly established that this isn’t a free speech question: the law would not (as proposed) ban anyone from owning or displaying a Confederate flag personally (and a law that did so would surely be overturned posthaste, because that would be an issue of) The current movement is entirely about ending Government endorsement of the Confederate flag, not personal use.
[Photo by:Chris Hondros/Getty Images]