A Christian-themed flag that was raised outside of a county courthouse in Bradley County, Arkansas, has been taken down after the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to Judge Keith Neely warning of constitutional violations.
The FFRF asserted that the flag, which depicts an evergreen tree and reads, “Appeal to Heaven,” constitutes a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which mandates a separation of church and state by prohibiting government endorsement of religion.
The flag in Bradley County was created by An Appel to Heaven (ATH), a Christian group which exists “to honor the Lord by supporting candidates for public office who are believers in Jesus Christ, who regularly attend and display a commitment to an evangelical, Gospel-centered church and who will commit to life and govern on biblical, constitutional, and Federalist principles,” according to the ATH website.
ATH says that they only work to support candidates who believe in the right of individuals to freely worship, believe that marriage should always be between a man and a woman, and accept that as the basic building block of society. Candidates must also believe that life begins at conception and should continue until natural death.
The letter warned that in 2012, Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit when the City of King, North Carolina, refused to take down a different Christian flag bearing the Latin cross. “That dispute could have been promptly ended with the removal of the flag. Instead, the flag brought divisiveness and significant costs to the City. The City settled the lawsuit for $500,000 and incurred more than $50,000 in legal expenses. Displaying this flag is an unambiguous constitutional violation that need not be litigated,” the letter said.
FFRF wrote in their letter to Neely that “This mission is clearly sectarian, and flying the flag is a tacit endorsement of evangelical Christianity.”
“The display of this patently religious symbol on County property confers government endorsement of Christianity, a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause,” the letter says.
FFRF says that they received a complaint from a local resident about the flag when it was flying at the Bradley County Courthouse, below the state flag of Arkansas.
Co-President of the FFRF, Annie Laurie Gaylor, said, “This flag belongs on a church flagpole, not at a county courthouse,” Patheos’ Friendly Atheist Blog reports.
It’s unknown when exactly the flag was removed o if it was Neely who ordered it be taken down, however, the FFRF says that it has in fact been taken down, Christian News Network reports.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia