Confederate flag should not be displayed in York County courtroom

Harry Dest
Harry Dest Jim Stratakos jstratakosR@herald

An open letter to the Herald concerning the display of the Confederate battle flag at the York County Courthouse.

We write today to express our opposition to the display of the Confederate battle flag at the York County Courthouse. It is almost inconceivable that less than two full years after our legislature decided to remove the flag from the Statehouse grounds in our capitol, that here in York County we would even have to discuss the inappropriateness of the display of that flag in another place where the people’s business is conducted. In our view it is both a moral and legal imperative that the Confederate battle flag not be displayed at the York County Courthouse.

From a moral perspective it is clear that the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate and oppression to many people in our society. In calling for the flag to be removed from the Statehouse grounds Sen. Paul Thurmond called it, “a symbol of war, of hate and divisiveness.” We all saw the images of Dylan Roof taking target practice with that flag flying in the background before he went on his racist murdering spree. No amount of historical value can justify affronting so many people in our community with such a morally offensive symbol.

As lawyers who believe in the sanctity of the ideals embodied in the United States Constitution and protected by our legal system, we feel it is completely inappropriate and in fact counterintuitive to display the Confederate flag in a public courthouse. Fundamentally that flag stood for rebellion against the United States Government and the Constitution upon which it was founded. That flag flew as a call to arms to fight to exclude and diminish many of the Constitution’s most important concepts from being applicable to different segments of the population. In a very real sense that flag flew against the protections of due process and certainly in opposition to the concept of equal protection under the law for all people. How can such a symbol be displayed in the halls of justice?

We recognize that for a plurality of South Carolinians the Confederate flag represents history and heritage. As such we would agree that it deserves to be placed in a location where it can be viewed and honored for its historical value. However this location should be a place where the citizens of York County can choose to go if they want to see, learn about, or venerate the flag. In short the flag should be displayed in one of York County’s museums where many other important historical artifacts are kept.

We do not see this issue as debatable. We call upon all local state and county elected officials, members of the York County Bar and the South Carolina Bar, as well as the people of good conscience in York County to act swiftly and decisively to relocate the Confederate flag and related Civil War memorabilia to one of York County’s museums.

Harry Dest is the 16th Circuit public defender and BJ Barrowclough is the16th Circuit deputy public defender