Georgia officials must refrain from displaying the Christian flag at city and county buildings, Americans United for Separation of Church and State says.
In letters sent today to officials in both the city of Cochran and Bleckley County, Americans United explains that flying the Christian flag on public property violates the First Amendment.
“When government buildings fly a Christian flag, especially with the intention of promoting Bible reading, it sends a crystal clear message that one religion is favored above all others,” said The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United. “This is among the most blatant violations of the Constitution that I have seen.”
Against the advice of its attorney, the city of Cochran voted recently to display the flag, which includes a Latin cross, at city hall in order to promote a local Bible-reading marathon sponsored by the International Bible Reading Association. Bleckley County, meanwhile, has flown the Christian flag at its courthouse in previous years in conjunction with the Bible-reading event.
In its letter, Americans United says these activities are unconstitutional, as evidenced by the recent AU case of Hewett v. City of King, in which the North Carolina city agreed in a settlement to stop displaying the Christian flag at a government-sponsored veterans memorial.
“The constitutional violation is arguably even clearer here than in the cases described above, because the City is flying the Christian flag in order to promote a religious event: a local Bible Reading Marathon sponsored by the International Bible Reading Association,” Americans United asserts in one of its letters.
Said Americans United Senior Litigation Counsel Gregory M. Lipper: “Flying the Christian flag at government buildings sends the message that non-Christians are second-class citizens. Government officials are supposed to represent all citizens, not just Christian citizens.”
The letters were written by Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan, Lipper and Staff Attorney Ian Smith. They ask for a response within 14 days.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.