A flag controversy has forced Cochran, Georgia officials to bow to pressure and take down a Christian flag flown to promote a local Bible-reading marathon sponsored by the International Bible Reading Association. The flag was flown at city hall and officials say local residents supported the decision to fly the cross-bearing banner over the government facility. The act caught the attention of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS) who claimed they received several complaints over the matter (no examples of the complaints were provided). The group sent letters to the city of Cochran and Bleckley County declaring ironically, that “flying the Christian flag on public property violates the First Amendment”. AUSCS was careful to provide several subtle monetary (lawsuit) threats in the letter as incentive for removal of the flag (see full text of letter below).
AUSCS in part cited a recent legal case in which a North Carolina city agreed to stop displaying the Christian flag at a government-sponsored veteran’s memorial. According to AUSCS, “flying the Christian flag at government buildings sends the message that non-Christians are second-class citizens.”
Following removal of the flag, in a statement on its website, the city posted the following notice:
“After reviewing further input from the community, detailed written legal opinions from our City Attorney and a second legal opinion from a constitutional lawyer, impact on the city fiscal resources and the environment in which the original decision to exclusively fly the Christian flag was made, the City Council voted 4 to 1 at a Special Called Meeting on April 28, 2015 to rescind the motion to exclusively fly the Christian flag 24/7 from the flagpole at City Hall and remove the flag effective May 8th. The only flags that will be flown from the flagpole at City Hall will be the U.S. and State Flags.”
Aligning with the oft-quoted phrase “with friends like these, who needs enemies”, AUSCS claims to fight for religious freedoms by opposing prayer in school, student religious clubs, use of religious buildings by schools, religious displays on public property, and even the phrase “under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance – all under the banner of striving to ensure America’s religious freedoms are retained.
A copy of Amendment I is quoted below for reference.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”