Does a Confederate Flag Belong in a House of Worship?

The Confederate flag is back in the news this past week as Charleston County Councilman, Henry Darby, called for the removal of the flag from the chapel at The Citadel. It is unclear whether the recent controversy surrounding the display of the flag at W&L’s Lee Chapel had any influence on Darby’s decision.

In today’s Charleston Post & Courier Darby explains his position.

[T]he flag is within a house of worship. A divisive symbol should not be sheltered where one communicates with God. The flag may be a symbol of a proud heritage, but it is also one associated with opposition to civil rights and with America’s vilest reactionary group, the KKK. It is my understanding that the flag has not been housed in the chapel continuously since 1939 because a former chaplain was so incensed that he took it down. I’m told that it was “re-raised” about six to seven months ago.1

The Confederate flag is not simply a symbol of racial division between blacks and whites. It is also a symbol of injustice and immorality. I believe one day a youthful white generation will come to see the errors of their fathers and say, “Flying the flag is not just.”

I am also involved because it saddens me that the church is still sitting on the sidelines. Throughout history in the realm of America’s racial issues – slavery, black codes, segregation, civil rights movement – the church did nothing or very little. It was more concerned with the status quo than with fairness and justice. A white minister wrote stating he is my brother in Christ; yet he would not oppose flying the flag – a symbol of racial division. If the church cannot help, then who?

It is unlikely that Darby’s constituents will prevail, but they certainly have the right to voice their concerns through their representative. We shall see whether this House of God believes in justice and morality.

1 I would love to know if this last point is true.

6 comments… add one
  • H. Donald Capps Jun 9, 2014 @ 20:07

    I was on the faculty of The Citadel some years ago. If I ever thought that the Army was good at rationalization, it was nothing compared to what I witnessed at The Citadel. As with any institution, it has its strengths and weaknesses, but there were more than a few occasions when I really had to wonder about the things that were often accepted with little thought by those both running the college and those attending as cadets: there was often a situational tone deafness that was truly amazing, such as the admission of women to the school.

    The Knob system was something that I thought then and continue to think of now as not very productive or even logical for a school that rarely hesitates to trumpet its academic excellence. The first year of college is challenging enough without the problems that the knobs have to face within the corps. Fortunately, most of those attending somehow manage to emerge as reasonable and rational young men & women, but there is always a sizable majority that seem to be from a different galaxy….

  • Forester Jun 8, 2014 @ 20:16

    I can’t speak for all religions, or even all Christians. But personally, I don’t believe that symbols of national pride belong in places of worship. I don’t like my Southern Baptist church having the US flag, but I keep my mouth shut because I’m alone in that.

    However, I support the Confederate flags in the Washington and Lee Chapel because there is a historical reason for it. Lee is buried there, after all. But because the CS flag is a relic of history, I think should ONLY be flown in historical contexts. The Summeral Chapel citadel is a stickier issue and I don’t know what I think about it. If they want to honor the “courage and valor shown by American manhood in fighting for a cause,” they can do so with a less controversial flag. The First National or Bonnie Blue would serve this purpose and not be immediately hurtful to any African-American who walked in. Most non-CW buffs wouldn’t even recognize them.

    The “Southern Cross” flag is just too volatile. Since the Confederate States of America no longer exists, the flag is just a “fill-in-the-blank” for whatever the hell one wants it to mean. Symbol of family and heritage? Check. Symbol of racism and Massive Resistance? You betcha! T-shirt logo for Skynryd and Alabama? Roof of the General Lee? Shot glass? Beer stein? Key Chain? Bikini? Why not? It’s whatever you want it to be, since it’s the flag of a country that DOESN’T EXIST.

    The pro and con factions can debate about that flag forever, since they basically make up their definitions as they go along.

    • Rob Baker Jun 9, 2014 @ 11:30

      I can’t speak for all religions, or even all Christians. But personally, I don’t believe that symbols of national pride belong in places of worship. I don’t like my Southern Baptist church having the US flag, but I keep my mouth shut because I’m alone in that.

      I’ve thought the same thing for quite some time. BUT, I think in the case of the Citadel, the chapel is more than just a place of worship. If you look at some of the pictures online, they have a plethora of flags inside. However, I have no clue what context is presented. It’d be nice to get an inside perspective on the issue.

  • Rob Baker Jun 7, 2014 @ 12:27

    I think this is a bit of a reach. This is not the first time the issue has been raised though.

    If you do a Google Image search of Summerall Hall though, you can see there are quite a lot of flags in the chapel. I do not know their historical prevalence in this context, or why they fly in the first place.

  • Eric Welch Jun 7, 2014 @ 5:49

    Doesn’t the National Cathedral have a memorial to Stonewall Jackson? And Robert E. Lee?

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