ERWIN, Tenn. — A prominent atheist activist organization is seeking the removal of a Christian flag from the room where a Tennessee school board holds its public meetings.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter on Tuesday to the Unicoi County Schools Board of Education after it says that it received a complaint from a local resident that the group did not name.
FFRF asserts that the presence of the flag, a white and blue flag with a red cross first created in 1897 to honor the Christian faith, is unconstitutional.
“The Christian flag being displayed during public school meetings unabashedly creates the perception of government endorsement of Christianity,” the letter stated. “The cross has an exclusionary effect, making non-Christian and non-believing students, parents and residents of Unicoi County Schools political outsiders.”
The group therefore asked that the board take down the flag, which has been positioned in the room for the past year.
“The display of this Christian flag is a brazen affront to the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution,” the letter continued. “We ask you to remove the Christian flag from the board meetings immediately.”
As previously reported, officials with the Glencoe, Alabama Police Department took down their Christian flag earlier this year after FFRF lodged a complaint. Mayor Charles 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.”
However, 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 is not yet known whether the Unicoi County Schools Board of Education plans to respond to FFRF.
“[L]et us not forget the religious character of our origin,” American statesman Daniel Webster 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.”