The leader of the group that demanded a Christian flag be removed from the courtroom in the Bryan County Courthouse thinks its presence could lead to appeals by defendants who have been convicted and/or sentenced there.
“It could certainly open the door for a person to say a prejudice occurred,” according to Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder and co-president of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. “A lot of it would depend on the transcripts and records.”
As the Bryan County News first reported, the FFRF send a letter to Bryan County Clerk of Courts Rebecca Crowe on July 6 stating that the flag’s presence in the courtroom “creates the perception of government endorsement of Christianity” and that it is “unconstitutional for a government entity to display a flag with a patently religious symbol and meaning on its grounds.”
The foundation’s letter also said “You must take immediate action and remove this flag from the courthouse.”
Crowe referred the letter to Leamon Holliday, the county’s attorney, who said the flag should be removed to avoid potential litigation. Crowe said the flag would “reluctantly” be removed. It sits behind the judge’s bench in the courtroom and the pole it is affixed to is topped by a cross.
“Cases could certainly be overturned if there was any discussion by jurors about a defendant’s beliefs or if a judge made an unobjective statement in that regard,” Gaylor said.
Gaylor said attorneys could also pursue action on behalf of clients if they believe they were the cause of any prejudice.
“Perhaps a lawyer who was Jewish or Muslim feels as though that hurt their client,” Gaylor said. “Even if was just based on their name.”
Gaylor added that the same could be true for Christians of certain denominations who may have felt they were treated unfairly because of the flag, mentioning Catholics in particular. The flag was created by Protestants in the early 20th century.
It is unclear how long the flag has been there or who has the final responsibility to remove it. Crowe has said she did not put it there and so she will not be the one to remove it.
Gaylor called that reaction “petulant” and that “even a janitor” could remove the flag.
“Maybe we’ll have to come there ourselves and take it out,” she said.