The Confederate battle flags that were placed at the graves of Confederate soldiers in the Boiling Springs First Baptist Church cemetery have been removed. The flags are traditionally placed by gravesides anonymously on May 10, which is Confederate Memorial Day in North Carolina.
The church’s cemetery committee posted a letter of explanation to Facebook informing parishioners of the decision to remove the flags.
The letter reads: “The Cemetery Committee requests that everyone refrain from decorating graves in the Boiling Springs Baptist Church Cemetery with Confederate battle flags on Confederate Memorial Day and at other times as well. Confederate flags in our day are symbols of racism, hate, and division. They are incompatible with our church’s stated mission: “to share God’s love and message of salvation with this community and around the world.” We affirm the dignity and worth of all humanity and stand in solidarity with our black and brown siblings who experience injustice. Removing racist symbols from the graveyard is a small way to show we believe, with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Dr. June Hobbs, who is an English professor at Gardner-Webb University and a member of the committee, drafted the letter on their behalf.
“Up until this year, I don’t think it has been anything more than a quaint local custom,” Hobbs said. “Nobody seemed to pay much attention to it, but in the middle of a national racial crisis, it (the flag) took on a new meaning. We don’t need people to see us as promoting hate and division.”
The Cleveland County regiment of the Sons of Confederate Veterans issued the following statement in response to the church’s decision.
“We regret the decision made by the First Baptist Church of Boiling Springs, North Carolina, to no longer allow the Confederate veterans buried in their cemetery to be honored on Confederate Memorial Day. On May 10 of each year, North Carolina observes Confederate Veterans Memorial Day by placing Confederate flags on their graves in remembrance of their sacrifices they made when called to duty by the State Of North Carolina, just as their grandfathers did during the Revolutionary War.”
Hobbs understands that not everyone agrees with the decision, but says there are other ways to honor the memory of Confederate soldiers.
“If you read some of the comments on Facebook, you would think that we are trying to refight the war,” she said. “We are not trying to refight the war. My great-grandfather was a Confederate soldier from Texas, and he has a Confederate flag on his grave. The flag has gotten disconnected (from its original purpose) and taken on a life of its own. It is now a symbol that is associated with racism. This is not about the soldiers. They have very nice gravestones, and people come and talk about them every year. But we are a church. We don’t want to do anything that can be seen as promoting racism.”
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