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South Carolina sheriff says he won't lower U.S. flag for Mandela

Dec. 7, 2013 at 3:09 PM

GREENVILLE, S.C., Dec. 7 (UPI) -- A South Carolina sheriff says he won't lower the flag at his office to honor the late Nelson Mandela because the former South African president wasn't American.

President Barack Obama ordered flags across the country flown at half-staff until sundown Monday to honor Mandela, South Africa's first black president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, who died Thursday at age 95.

Rick Clark, sheriff of Pickens County, said lowering the U.S. flag to half-staff should be reserved for U.S. citizens, GreenvilleOnline.com reported Friday.

"The flag at half-staff is for Americans' ultimate sacrifice for our country," Clark said. "We should never stray away from that."

The flag outside the sheriff's office was already at half-staff during daylight Friday to honor a law enforcement officer who was killed and in commemoration of the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Friday evening, however, Clark said, the flag would be raised.

The sheriff posted a message on his Facebook page saying that he thought Mandela "did great things for his country and was a great man." However, he felt lowering the flag for a non-U.S. citizen "weakens what it means to that person who has died for the United States of America."

The federal flag code "functions simply as a guide" and has no penalties or enforcement provisions, says a report issued by the U.S. Senate.

Former President George W. Bush ordered the flag lowered after the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005.

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