Confederate flags are now banned from fixed flagpoles veterans’ cemeteries after the Obama administration quietly pushed through the new rules, the Washington Times is reporting.
The ruling still allows smaller Confederate flags and other items bearing the image of the flag to be placed on veterans’ graves.
Ronald E. Walters, under secretary for memorial affairs at the VA, clarified the new restrictions.
“In particular, we will amend our policy to make clear that Confederate flags will not be displayed from any permanently fixed flagpole in a national cemetery at any time.”
Back in June, according to Politico, the House of Representatives considered the ban, which had been included as a small part of a larger spending bill. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California), perhaps surprisingly, both supported the ban, but Ryan allowed the issue to be debated on the House floor. Following deliberations, the provision was removed from the spending bill.
Nevertheless, despite Congress rejecting the Confederate flag ban, the Obama administration imposed the restrictions anyway.
California Democrat Jared Huffman praised the ban.
“While racist individuals and groups continue to embrace the Confederate battle flag, it has never been more clear that this anachronistic symbol of hatred, slavery, and insurrection should not be promoted or gratuitously displayed on federal property.”
In fact, the ban has little practical effect — before the new restrictions, the Confederate flag could only be displayed from fixed flagpoles at VA cemeteries on certain days — namely, Memorial Day and Confederate Memorial Day (which varies by state).
Nevertheless, notes Times writer Stephen Dinan, the ban is seen as a symbolic victory in a larger battle against the Confederate flag.
Depending on whom you ask, the Confederate flag is either a symbol of racism, slavery, and hate; or it’s a symbol of pride in Southern heritage.
To the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate.
“It’s difficult to make the case today that the Confederate flag is not a racist symbol. After being used sparingly for decades, it began appearing frequently in the 1950s and 1960s as white Southerners resisted efforts to dismantle Jim Crow segregation.. Worst of all, it became a mainstay at Ku Klux Klan rallies as the organization launched a campaign of bombings, murders and other violence against African Americans and civil rights activists.”
However, according to a 2015 Atlanta Journal-Constitution report, supporters of the flag insist that it’s about “Heritage, not Hate,” as Bill Armistead explained at a Confederate flag rally.
“We’re here to support our heritage. We’re not racist.”
Regardless, popular opinion has, in large part, turned against the Confederate flag, and in some ways, so have many state and local governments. A movement has been afoot for decades to get the flag removed from taxpayer-funded public places; a movement that has gained traction in recent years.
Across the South, according to Esquire, at county courthouses, public squares, and even state capitol buildings, where the Confederate flag once proudly flew alongside the American flag and local state flags, the “Stars and Bars” is slowly disappearing. Already Georgia and Virginia have announced plans to remove the symbol from state license plates. Alabama, meanwhile, has ordered the flag removed from the State Capitol grounds, while Mississippi has made moves toward removing the symbol from its own flag.
Private industry has taken to distancing itself from the Confederate flag as well: Sears, Kmart, Amazon, eBay, and other retailers and distributors have all announced plans to end sales of the flag.
Do you believe the Veterans Administration was right to ban the Confederate flag from flagpoles at veterans’ cemeteries?
[Image via Shutterstock/Neil Lockhart]