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Christian Flag Removed After Atheist Complaint Is Back Legally at Tenn. School Board Meetings

Unicoi County School Board
The Unicoi County, Tennessee Board of Education Meeting for January 21, 2016. At this meeting, the board vted unanimously to remove a Christian flag from their meeting room and donate it to the Unicoi County Ministerial Association. |

A Christian flag that was removed earlier this year from a Tennessee school board meeting room flies again inside the chambers thanks to the actions of a local church group.

In January, the Unicoi County School Board of Education voted to remove a Christian flag from its chambers and donate it to the local Unicoi County Ministerial Association.

Since then, the Ministerial Association has flown the very Christian flag donated to them months ago during school board meetings.

The Reverend Noah Taylor, head of the Association and pastor at Evergreen Free Will Baptist Church, told The Christian Post that flying the flag at meetings "was an issue that many citizens and churches in our community were deeply passionate about."

"We have over 70 churches in a county with approximately 16,000 residents, so many felt that the Christian flag should stay," said Rev. Taylor.

"This was a solution that we prayerfully considered and felt that it was one that would serve the people in our community and honor Christ. The flag is displayed on a daily basis at the local YMCA."

Taylor also told CP that the flag has been on display "at the majority of meetings," with some meetings "missed due to a simple miscommunication" among volunteers.

Last November, the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a complaint letter to Unicoi County over a Christian flag existing in their school board meeting room. The flag had been there for about 20 years.

Initially, the board opposed the FFRF's demands to remove the flag. Unicoi County Board of Education Chairman Tyler Engle told local media last year that they were not planning to move the flag.

"I'm unsure as to how long the flag has been displayed here, you know its not something that is intentionally brought out at every meeting, it is here in the room even when the board doesn't meet," said Engle to WJHL last year.

"Our attorney is carefully reviewing the constitutional precedent and the constitutional law as well as the case law that is cited in the letter. The board is not planning to take immediate action."

However, in January the board voted unanimously to remove the Christian flag and donate it to the local Ministerial Association that Taylor heads.

"The room was silent Thursday night as people watched Director of Schools John English present the flag to the Unicoi County Ministerial Association," reported WJHL in January.

"While nobody spoke out on behalf of the Christian flag, there was silent support. Some people brought posters, flags, and even one board member was wearing a shirt with the Christian flag front and center."

English told WJHL in January that "we're just not allowed to endorse a particular religion" and therefore the flag had to be removed.

Regarding potential litigation over the new way of displaying the flag, Taylor responded that they worked with school officials and counsel to find a legal way to display it at the meeting room.

"We sought legal counsel concerning the issue, and our attorney informed us that as private citizens of the county we had every right to display the flag as long as it didn't disrupt or impede on the meetings," explained Taylor.

"Theoretically, any citizen could display any flag of their choosing, thus those of the Christian community are able to display the Christian flag."

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