Removal a step closer: South Carolina Confederate Flag
Published: July 8, 2015
Removal a step closer: South Carolina Confederate Flag, As senators celebrated their decisive vote Monday to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds, some state House members were forming plans to fly other historic, and potentially controversial, flags in its place.
Critics contend flying another flag next to the Confederate soldiers’ memorial along Gervais Street would sanction the reasons for the Civil War, which included maintaining slavery.
Some lawmakers, however, consider the Confederate battle flag a source of Southern heritage and want to preserve it – even if they have agreed to remove the flag from the State House grounds.
State Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, said he plans to propose an amendment that would have the commission that oversees the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum present a proposal to the General Assembly for flying the flag and creating a wall with the names of fallen Confederate soldiers.
“It’s important that we lay out in this process to honorably remember those folks who died,” Quinn said.
In the Senate on Monday, emotional speeches about a slain colleague punctuated the historic vote.
State senators said that the late Sen. Clementa Pinckney – and his Charleston church’s reaction to a shooting that took his and eight other lives – inspired them to vote 37-3 in support of lowering the Confederate flag.
“I regret that Clem is not here,” said Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, referring affectionately to Pinckney by his nickname. “I did not express gratitude to him while he was still on this Earth. Because the reaction that those members of the church had is a reflection of him as their pastor, as their shepherd. … I regret that I don’t have an opportunity to thank him for that.”
The Senate is expected Tuesday to give final approval to the bill that proposes removing the flag, its pole and the surrounding fence. The flag would go to the Confederate Relic Room. The final vote requires a two-thirds majority vote for passage, a rule set in the 2000 law that moved the Civil War icon off the Capitol dome.
Once passed in the Senate, the bill heads to the House for debate as early as Wednesday.
The House, which has 124 members, is where the proposal could run into trouble.
House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, said lawmakers have several proposals to replace the flag with different banners, but he did not know whether any of them had enough backing enough to pass.
Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, said he has a proposal to replace the battle flag with another one, leaving the flagpole standing on the State House grounds near the Confederate Soldier Monument.
One flag lawmakers are discussing as a replacement is a state Civil War-era infantry flag, said Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, a major in the S.C. Army National Guard.
But Smith, like many Democrats, said he does not support replacing the Confederate battle flag with another banner.
Confederate flags flown during the Civil War were furled as part of the terms of joining the nation, Smith said, adding that soldiers are not honored when the flags they fought under are subjected to misuse and political abuse. Accused Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof was pictured with the Confederate battle flag in photos that first surfaced on the Internet.
The proposals circulating in the House would “taint a regimental flag that probably has a great history,” Smith said.
The Senate bill passed Monday does not include flying another flag. Senators rejected overwhelmingly a proposal Monday to fly the Stars and Bars, the national flag of the Confederacy, in place of the battle flag.
Meanwhile, Gov. Nikki Haley, whose call to remove the flag two weeks ago started the debate, urged the House on Monday to “follow the Senate’s lead” in moving swiftly to adopt the Senate proposal.
The governor wants to see just two flags flying on the State House grounds – the American and South Carolina flags, said Haley press secretary Chaney Adams, who called the Capitol grounds a “place of unity for everyone in our state.”
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