A Confederate flag flies at the base of a confederate memorial in front of the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina July 4, 2015.  Photo by Tami Chappell, courtesy of Reuters

A Confederate flag flies at the base of a confederate memorial in front of the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina July 4, 2015. Photo by Tami Chappell, courtesy of Reuters

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – In the wake of the Emanuel AME church shooting, South Carolina lawmakers on Monday began an emotional debate over legislation to remove the Confederate battle flag that flies at the state capitol in Columbia.

The flag has ┬álong been denounced by its critics as a symbol of slavery. ┬áMonday’s

political discussion comes after numerous elected officials including Republican Governor Nikki Haley called for the flag’s removal after the June 17 massacre of nine African-American churchgoers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston.

Politicians and businesses across the southern United States are trying to banish the Confederate flag in response to killings of the church’s “Emanuel 9” during Bible study. Photos of the white man charged in the shooting showed him posing with the flag on a website that also carried a racist manifesto.

The shooting took the life of the church’s pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator, and his senate desk was draped in black.

The flag’s defenders argue that it is worthy of recognition as part of South Carolina’s heritage, representing the sacrifice of lives on the battlefield during the Civil War. They also worry that bringing down the flag, which has flown for more than 50 years at the capitol, could lead to calls for removing symbols from other monuments and changing street and place names honoring Confederate leaders.

The removal legislation appears to have a good chance of success and could be approved as early as Thursday.

A recent poll taken by Charleston’s Post and Courier newspaper showed both houses of the legislature would reach the two-thirds majority required under state law to move the flag, which was flown by rebelling states in the Civil War.

Senate Democrat Vincent Sheheen, who is white and introduced the bill, asked legislators on Monday to approve it not because of Pinckney’s “assassination” but rather because “it’s the right thing to do.”

Noting that he was mocked by politicians a year ago when he introduced similar legislation, he said the Charleston murders were a reminder that a racist cultural divide still existed in the state.

Removing the flag was “one small thing that we can do” to heal that divide, he said.

While some white people might have emotional ties to the Confederate flag, Senator Darrell Jackson, a black Democrat, reminded legislators that the descendants of slaves look at it differently.

“When I see a Confederate soldier, I don’t get goosebumps and get all warm and fuzzy,” he said. “All I’m saying is you can’t force all of us to have the passion that some of you have about certain things.”

Since the killings, Haley has led the charge for the flag’s removal and 29 of the state’s 46 senators have also signed onto bipartisan legislation that would transfer it to a military museum.

The state Senate is expected to vote first to take the flag down followed by a debate in the House of Representatives.

The Confederate flag was raised atop the State House dome in 1961 as part of centennial commemorations of the Civil War. Critics said that was a direct challenge to civil rights, voting rights and desegregation protests at the time.

In 2000, after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced an economic boycott of South Carolina and protesters marched on the state capital, lawmakers agreed to a compromise, moving the flag to a monument to Confederate war dead on the capitol grounds.

The NAACP action, as well as boycotts by sports organizations and protests saying the flag is an offensive symbol of slavery and white supremacy, have continued since then.


  1. The right reason to take down the flag is that it offends and hurts a lot of fellow human beings, while contributing little to “southern pride” since most southerners feel pride about the Stars and Stripes alone. But like everything else, the loony left has a knack for taking good ideas to maniacal extremes, such as brain-dead proposals to remove Confederate flags at Gettysburg, where the context is a simple telling of history of the battle between the two sides.

    • Jack:

      Once you start down the slippery slope of Marxism, for any reason, the loonies become the norm.

      If you want to approach this from your the perspective of your own philosophical views about why the confederate flag or any historically significant image needs to be taken down, you have the right to do so.

      But you, me nor anybody else was born with an inherent right “not to be offended.”

      Don’t find the right not to be offended emphasized anywhere in Scripture for that matter.

      • What I’m talking about is not a “right not to be offended.”

        It’s what, before our time, used to be called “charity.”

        It’s not a right that someone can demand, but it is a grace that should be extended to fellow human beings.

        And to the extent that a state capital represents the people of that state, it is reasonable for elected officials to try their best not to offend “charity” by their actions. It is noble and good for people to put other people ahead of their own wants and desires.