Controversy over the Confederate flag, monuments and symbols seemingly will not go away, even though the Civil War ended more than 150 years ago.
And the latest controversy, unfortunately, involves Birmingham.
A few years ago, as Confederate monuments were coming down across the nation, our Legislature approved a measure making it illegal for a public body to remove a monument that is at least 40 years old.
Birmingham city officials wanted to dismantle a 52-feet tall monument honoring Confederate soldiers and sailors at a city park. But rather than outright disobey the law, officials opted to construct a plywood wall around it, and a lawsuit was filed contending the law was unconstitutional.
A Jefferson County judge ruled in the city’s favor last month, saying that the law violated the city’s right of free speech and expression. Subsequently, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced his intent to appeal, saying the U.S. Supreme Court has long held that First Amendment rights do not apply to local governments, only individuals.
We will just have to wait for the final outcome, but I do know Marshall will have some friendly faces at the next levels because the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals and the Alabama Supreme Court are conservative bodies.
And I also know that it just does not look good for the state of Alabama and its largest city to be fighting it out in court over Confederate monuments.
Meanwhile, a Montgomery church (yes, church) was making headlines of its own this week over a Confederate relic. Historic St. John’s Episcopal Church decided to remove a pew dedicated Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. The pastor explained that the pew was dedicated 90 years ago at a service featuring a pro-lynching segregationist. It will be placed in the church archives.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr., the church pastor, posted a message on the church website saying, “Confederate monuments and symbols have increasingly been used by groups that promote white supremacy and are now, to many people of all races, seen to represent insensitivity, hatred and even evil. The mission of our parish is diametrically opposed to what these symbols have come to mean,” as reported by The Montgomery Advertiser.
The action apparently did not violate the state law because it was not on public property.
When will the controversy over Confederate relics end? Perhaps when the Civil War is 250 years behind us?