Jon Ostendorff, AshevilleCitizen-Times
Waynesville, NC-- Confederate flags have been taking root on the Haywood County Courthouse lawn, and county leaders Monday night took a step toward limiting them.
A policy change introduced at a Board of Commissioners meeting would allow for display of the first national flag of the Confederacy only on Confederate Memorial Day, which is May 10 in North Carolina. And policy still might see a legal challenge.
"We believe that it is patently unconstitutional if it's adopted they way they have worded it," said Kirk D. Lyons, chief trial counsel of the Southern Legal Resource Center. Lyons represents the Sons of Confederate Veterans in North Carolina.
The policy would ban the more popular Confederate battle flag altogether and allow for the Stars and Bars only at the Confederate Memorial at the courthouse with permission of the county manager.
Only two flags of any kind would be allowed at each of the courthouse memorials, and that includes those for World War II and Vietnam. The flags could not be larger than 12 by 16 inches.
Lyons told county commissioners during their meeting Monday that requiring a 30-day notice before displaying a flag is unreasonable. The requirement would have a "chilling effect" on free speech, he said.
The government also has no right to say which flags may or may not be displayed on its property, Lyons said.
He took exception to the choice of the flag, saying it was not the official flag of the Confederacy.
"We will oppose this policy as it written today with every fiber in our being," he said.
Lyons has provided legal help to white supremacists and people involved in patriot or militia movements.
Commissioners' Chairman Mark Swanger said before the meeting Monday that the proposal is consistent with North Carolina law.
The board did not vote on the policy. He said the vote probably would be in December.
Earlier this year, the city of Lexington, Va., decided to keep the Confederate battle flag off municipal light poles. The Sons of Confederate Veterans had provided the city about 40 flags and paid to have city workers install them on the light poles for Lee-Jackson Day, a Virginia state holiday honoring Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Sons of Confederate Veterans challenged the law; a federal judge dismissed the suit in June.
The Haywood County policy is needed because of "the proliferation of various materials on the courthouse lawn," including Confederate flags, Swanger said.
County staff has removed flags only to find them replaced.
Swanger said the policy, which applies to all county property, is a good idea.
"I think it's moving in a positive direction," he said.
Confederate flag supporter Larry Bradley said he would like to see more days for the flag to be displayed. He said one of the biggest problems with government is it doesn't listen to the people.
"That's what we are asking you to do: Simply listen," he said.
Asheville Citizen Times