A Civilian City and “Military Religious Flags”

The North Carolina city of King has been in the news over the past few months over its decision to remove a Christian flag from a veteran’s memorial — after a threat of financial ruin from the ACLU.  Local citizens subsequently raised their own Christian flag, and then stood guard over it 24/7.

King officials, with pro bono assistance from the Alliance Defense Fund, recently voted to reinstate the memorial…sort of: 

The King City Council approved a policy Monday night that eventually would allow a Christian flag to fly again at a memorial at the city’s Central Park as a part of a limited public display of religious flags recognized by the U.S. military.

Pop quiz: What “religious flags” are “recognized by the US military?”

To be fair, it appears to be a journalist’s poorly chosen paraphrase of the actual “compromise.”  It appears flags with religious symbols recognized by the military will be permitted.

Still, a similar question:  What “religious symbols” are recognized by the military?

One comment

  • No religious symbols are “recognized” by the military. The Army would not, for example, look at a piece of religious jewelry and say, “that symbol is recognized – it’s OK” or “that’s not a recognized symbol – so take it off.” You’ve covered the issue of religious jewelry in a previous post. Individuals adopt religious symbols or assign religious meaning to symbols based on their own religious commitments and preferences.

    The article mentions the branch insignia of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist chaplains. Their only official status is as branch insignia for officers in the chaplain branch. They are not, broadly speaking, “recognized religious symbols.”

    The Veterans Administration – not a uniformed service, and not a part of the Department of Defense – has a number of standard religious symbols that it allows family members to request for the headstones of their loved ones. As I understand it, this is not based on the government’s giving official status to these religions; it is simply a recognition that these are the most common symbols requested by families. Standardization gives the stones a uniform, recognizable appearance. While it would be impractical to offer an infinite variety of religious symbols, it is possible for families to request symbols for religions not already present within the stock set. According to news reports, the VA only added Wicca in 2007 after a lawsuit settled the matter. I don’t understand the initial reluctance on the VA’s part in this matter.

    The stock set can be seen here:
    http://www.cem.va.gov/hm/hmemb.asp

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