A group has asked that a courthouse in Georgia remove a flag with a cross on it, because they say that the flag promotes Christianity.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization which advocates for the constitutionally guaranteed separation of church and state, called the flag, which was placed next to a judge's bench in a courtroom in Bryan County, Georgia, "very obviously Christian," in a statement on their website. The group has asked the courthouse to remove the flag immediately.
The flag's design, known as the Christian flag, originated in the early 20th century, and shares its colors with the American flag, according to Christianity Today. The flag was conceived during an 1897 speech by Charles C. Overton, a superintendent at a Sunday school in New York, when he spoke about the symbolism of the American flag and mentioned that Christians should have their own flag. In 1907, Overton created the Christian flag as a symbol of his religion.
The Christian flag features a white background with a blue rectangle in the corner containing a red cross. The flag's colors and design are intended to represent traditional Christian values and ideology, with the white representing purity, blue representing fidelity or baptism in water, and red for the blood of Christ. The pole of the flag in the Bryan County courthouse is also topped with a Latin cross.
"An overwhelming majority of federal courts agree that the Latin cross universally represents the Christian religion, and only the Christian religion," wrote Elizabeth Cavell, a staff attorney for FFRF. "And a majority of federal courts have held displays of Latin crosses on public property to be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion."
The group argued in its message to Bryan County Clerk of Courts Rebecca Crowe that displaying the flag in a government-owned building gave the impression that the government is endorsing Christianity.
"Such a blatant endorsement of religion and Christianity has no place in our secular courtrooms," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, the co-president of the FFRF. "The flag needs to be gotten rid of at once."
In a similar case in 2015, the Christian flag caused controversy when it was flown at the city hall of Cochran, Georgia, to promote a Bible-reading marathon, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Cochran City Council reportedly flew the flag despite their own attorney advising against it, with city officials saying that local residents supported the decision to fly the flag.
Groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State complained about the flag and eventually, Cochran officials decided to take it down. The city also said that, going forward, it would only display the U.S. and state flags at its city hall.