Over 100 residents of small town in Mississippi have responded boisterously after their mayor was pressured to remove a Christian flag from a public memorial after the nation's largest atheist legal organization threatened costly legal action.
Late last month, Mayor Walter Williams of Rienzi, Mississippi, received a letter from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation that exclaimed that the town of Rienzi was violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by flying a Christian flag at the town's Veterans Memorial Garden and called for the government to remove the flag.
The flag features an all-white base with a red cross inside of a blue box located in the upper left corner.
The letter, written by FFRF attorney Sam Grover, also warns that other towns have had to pay hefty sums for trying to fight legal battles to defend the right to display Christian flags or other Christian icons on public property. Grover highlights the case of King, North Carolina, which in 2015 had to pay $500,000 in legal fees after it was sued for having a Christian flag and a statue of a soldier kneeling before a cross on public grounds.
Not wanting to entrench the town in a costly legal battle, Williams had the flag taken down, an act that did not go over very well his constituents.
According to local CBS affiliate WREG, a crowd of 100 or more gathered at the memorial garden to show their support for the town's right to display the flag last Saturday.
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A number of the demonstrators were Christian bikers who participated in a 12-mile motorcycle caravan from the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Corinth all the way to the Veterans Memorial Garden. The bikers proudly flew their Christian flags on the back of their motorcycles as they made their way down the road.
"There just comes a point in time when you've got to be politically incorrect and take a stand," rally organizer Kevin Nelms told WREG.
Resident Susan Woodruff told WREG that she came to the rally as a "proud American" and "proud Christian" to "stand up for the Lord and stand up for our freedom."
"We are not going to let a company or a foundation up in Wisconsin tell us that we can't fly a flag," Nelms told the crowd during the rally. "You're gonna take one down, we're gonna put a hundred back up."
Williams told WCBI that he removed the flag only after receiving the letter from FFRF.
"It wasn't because I wanted to, but it was because I didn't want to go no further of putting the town in jeopardy over me making a decision," Williams explained. "They told me that a lawsuit could be filed on their behalf against me if I did not comply."
According to WCBI, Nelms told the crowd that they must not "bow down" to FFRF's demands.
"I'm telling you folks I'm no preacher but it's going to get worse. Can I get an amen?" Nelms asked. "It's going to get worse but we cannot bow down. We can't lay down If we stand up until our death — that's what we need to do."
After none of the participants at the rally raised their hand when asked who opposes the Christian flag, Williams vowed to put the flag back up.
"I'm hoping and praying that this time next week, you're going to see that flag flying here," Williams assured.
Gearing up for a possible legal battle with the FFRF, Williams explained that the town has hired an attorney. The flag issue will again be discussed during a town board meeting scheduled for Tuesday evening.
After the Christian flag and praying soldier statue were removed in King, North Carolina, following a city council vote in 2015, residents in that town also rallied to protest its removal.