GLENCOE, Ala. — Believers in Glencoe, Alabama rallied on Saturday in support of the Christian flag after the city decided to remove it from outside the local police department due to a complaint from a prominent atheist activist organization.
As previously reported, Mayor Charles Gilchrist told local television station WBRC that the flag was removed just weeks after the city received a letter from the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF). The group stated that it had received a complaint about the presence of the flag and asserted that it was an unlawful endorsement of Christianity.
“It is unconstitutional for a government entity to fly a flag with a patently religious symbol and meaning on its grounds,” the letter, written by staff attorney Andrew Seidel, read. “You must take immediate action and refrain from hoisting this flag up the flagpole at the city hall building.”
Seidel contended that the flag infringes upon the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” He also argued that hoisting the Christian symbol outside of the police department disrespects other religions or those of no religion at all.
“The display of this patently religious symbol on city property confers government endorsement of Christianity, a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause,” the letter stated. “The cross on the flag pole of Glencoe’s city hall building unabashedly creates the perception of government endorsement of Christianity.”
“It conveys the message to the twenty-six percent of the U.S. population who are not Christians that they are not ‘favored members of the political community,’” it said.
FFRF consequently demanded that the flag come down in order to avoid a lawsuit. Gilchrist said that the threat of a suit is what ultimately resulted in the removal of the flag.
“That would just about ruin us,” Gilchrist stated. “I have to look out for the best interests of the city.”
He said that he believes that the threat of suit is how the group strong-arms cities into compliance with their wishes.
“That’s what they do, they pick on these smaller towns that can’t defend ourselves,” Gilchrist said, noting that he personally did not want to remove the flag.
It was later given to local restaurant owner Jeff Word, who raised the flag outside of Big Chief Restaurant.
The Etowah County Chapter of First Responders for Christ soon decided to organized a rally in support of the flag’s original presence at Glencoe City Hall. Approximately 100 people turned out for the event on Saturday, which featured Rep. Mack Butler and state Sen. Phil Williams, as well as Thom Harrison, pastor of North Glencoe Baptist Church.
“We weren’t called to sit back and watch and not say a word. We’re called to go out and proclaim the gospel among all nations,” Williams declared.
Williams pointed to the Christian heritage of the nation, such as the daily presence of a Congressional chaplain since 1789 and the motto “In God We Trust,” first printed on currency in the 1800’s.
“This country and our laws were founded on Judeo-Christian principles that are literally written in stone at our nation’s Capitol, and that history cannot be overlooked or undone,” organizer Samuel Lowe told the Christian Post. “They can remove the flag from the pole, but the Christian roots of our nation’s origin can never be denied.”
“On the surface, the flag removal appears to be a battle over the fictitious separation of church and state,” he said, “but the underlying reason the flag was removed was due to the separation between God and man because of the sin that’s in man’s heart.”