PEMBROKE, Ga. — A Christian flag has been removed from a county courthouse in Georgia following a complaint from a prominent atheist activist organization.
As previously reported, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter on July 6 to the clerk of courts at the Bryan County Courthouse to demand that the flag be ejected from the courtroom. The flag—a white and blue flag with a red cross first created in 1897 to honor the Christian faith—had been displayed in the corner by the judge’s bench.
“It has been said that the white in the flag represents the biblical conceptions of purity, the blue in the flag represents the baptism in water, and the red color of the cross is symbolic of the sacrifice Jesus Christ made when He was crucified,” attorney Elizabeth Cavell wrote.
“The inherent religious significance of the Christian flag and Latin cross is undeniable and is not disguisable,” she said. “No secular purpose, no matter how sincere, will detract from the overall message that the flag stands for Christianity and the overall display promotes Christianity.”
Cavell asserted that the flag is therefore a violation of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
“The display of these patently religious symbols on county property confers government endorsement of Christianity, a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause,” she wrote.
According reports, Clerk of Courts Rebecca Crowe forwarded the letter to attorney Leamon Holliday, who advised that the flag should be removed to avoid a legal challenge. While Crowe told Bryan County News that she wasn’t sure who ultimately removed the flag or where it has been relocated, local television station WJCL reports that it was Chief Justice Robert Russell III who decided to comply with the group’s request.
FFRF says that it is pleased that the flag has been removed.
“We appreciate that they finally decided to stop playing the role of constitutional outlaws,” Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement. “Bryan County is not a Christian county, Georgia is not a Christian state and the United States is a secular—not a Christian—nation. Reason and the Constitution have prevailed.”
As previously reported, the Georgia state Constitution, first formally written in 1777—just one year after the founding of America—acknowledged Christianity and required its leaders to be Christians.
“[W]e the people of Georgia, relying upon the protection and guidance of almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution,” it reads. “The representatives shall be chosen out of the residents in each county, who shall have resided at least twelve months in this state … and they shall be of the Protestant religion, and of the age of twenty-one years…”
“[L]et us not forget the religious character of our origin,” American statesman Daniel Webster also declared during his famous “Plymouth Oration” in 1820, less than 50 years after the nation’s founding. “Our fathers were brought hither for their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light and labored in its hope. They sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of society, and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil, political or literary.”