Atheist Group Forces Georgia Courthouse to Remove Long-Time Christian Flag

Christian Flag next to U.S. Flag
Christian Flag next to U.S. Flag | (PHOTO:MySpace/James Stone)

A courthouse in Georgia removed a Christian flag from its property after receiving a complaint from a Wisconsin-based atheist organization.

Bryan County Courthouse officials decided to take down a Christian flag from their Superior Courtroom following a complaint leveled by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Local media outlet WJCL channel 22 recently reported that weeks after receiving the complaint, the flag was removed from the room.

"Chief Justice of the Bryan County Superior Court Robert Russell III decided to take the flag down," reported WJCL last week.

On July 6, FFRF staff attorney Elizabeth Cavell sent a letter to Bryan County Clerk of Courts Rebecca Crowe on behalf of a local resident who took exception to the flag display.

In her letter to the clerk, Cavell argued that the "inherent religious significance of the Christian flag and Latin cross is undeniable."

"It is unconstitutional for a government entity to display a flag with a patently religious symbol and meaning on its grounds," wrote Cavell.

"You must take immediate action and remove this flag from the courthouse. Please respond in writing at your earliest convenience with assurances that this unconstitutional display will be removed."

In response to receiving the letter, Crowe forwarded the correspondence to county attorney Leamon Holliday, according to Bryan County News.

"Holliday … said the flag should be removed to avoid potential litigation. Crowe said the flag would 'reluctantly' be removed," reported BCN.

"It had been located behind the judges' bench in the courtroom and the pole it is affixed to is topped by a cross. No one knows for sure how long the flag was in the courtroom. The courthouse was built in 1938."

In a statement released last Thursday, FFRF co-president Anne Laurie Gaylor said that she and her organization "appreciate that they finally decided to stop playing the role of constitutional outlaws."

"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," stated Gaylor.

This is not the first time that the FFRF has sent a letter of complaint to a local government that was flying the Christian flag within a public building.

Last November, FFRF sent a complaint letter to the Unicoi County Board of Education in Tennessee over a Christian flag placed in a meeting room.

Unlike Bryan County, Unicoi County Board of Education Chairman Tyler Engle told local media that they had no plans to remove the banner.

"I'm unsure as to how long the flag has been displayed here, you know its not something that is intentionally brought out at every meeting, it is here in the room even when the board doesn't meet," said Engle to WJHL last year.

"Our attorney is carefully reviewing the constitutional precedent and the constitutional law as well as the case law that is cited in the letter. The board is not planning to take immediate action."

By January, however, the school board voted unanimously to remove the religious flag and give it the Unicoi County Ministerial Association.

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