Ask an Atheist with Sam Mulvey

Faith Flag Trouble in North Carolina

In North Carolina there has been a bit of controversy stirring for almost a year regarding flags at a veterans memorial.  The real trouble started in December, when the King city government decided to start holding a lottery where winners would be allowed to fly a flag representing the faith of the veteran they wished to memorialize.

Wait, what?  Why would the city government ever mandate “faith flags” in the first place?  Doesn’t that seem like the local government was just looking for trouble?  I mean, when I hear about a government mandating religious anything, the first thing I think of is – is that constitutional?  Regardless, even if they weren’t looking for trouble, they certainly found it.

So now a man who has the right to choose the flag for four different weeks has been going back and forth about what to do.  And he’s finally decided probably the smartest choice – not to fly any flags at all.

“By doing so, I honor the service of all veterans,” Hewett said. “Speaking with other individuals and veterans who are (of) the same opinion as I, we believe no religious symbols should fly over the Veteran’s Memorial.”

Hewett isn’t an atheist, he’s a Christian.  In fact, the article states that he had intended at first to fly a Christian flag, but when people began to speak out against the use of religious flags – feeling they leave too many people of other faiths or no faith out – he changed his mind.  First, he thought he was fly flags from several major religions and then also hoist an atheist flag.  After that idea was poorly recieved, he’s decided not to fly anything at all.

However, it looks like even that solution might now work.

Stephen James said Thursday that Hewett’s decision to fly no flags at the memorial still violates the city’s policy, which states that residents requesting a flag to honor a family member who is a veteran must pick a flag that represents the veteran’s faith tradition.

In fact, another towns person previously attempted to leave the flagpole empty during her turn at picking the weekly flag, and the result was both insulting and disrespectful.

Cynthia Becker of King flew no flag at the memorial the week of June 7, in honor of her father, Theodore Becker, who served in the Navy from 1959 to 1962. She said the absence of a flag would represent everyone’s beliefs, including her father’s.

Becker said she was unhappy when a group of King residents flew a Christian flag temporarily at the site during her week.

Wow.  Isn’t that kind of like flipping the bird to both Cynthia and the memory of her veteran father?  I dunno man, I think Jesus might be kind of pissed.  Of course, given the actions of those residents, I’m sure their Jesus isn’t the guy I imagine when I conceptualize Jesus anyway.

I think one comment on the article had it right – if you have to fly a flag, why not just put up a damn American flag?  Or better yet, get rid of the whole ridiculous “faith flag” system and stop allowing this to be an issue that takes up the time and attention of the local government and the people of King.  I have to imagine there are far more important issues to be considered than what bit of cloth gets raised into the sky week to week.



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Scott Imbeau (Langley BC)

Knowing me I’ll have more of an opinion when it isn’t 3:30 in the morning but after reading the article a question has been raised within me. It says there’s a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs approved Atheist flag.I wonder what it looks like.


I tried to find that flag actually, but I had a hard time locating a picture of it. I have to assume it’s the same atomic symbol with an “a” in the middle that my veteran dad has on his tombstone.

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