CHARLESTON, S.C., June 10 (UPI) -- The Confederate flag will to continue to fly in South Carolina, at least inside the Summerall Chapel at The Citadel military college, thanks to an opinion handed down by the state's Attorney General, Robert D. Cook, declaring display of the flag legal under the state's "Heritage Act."
Charleston County Councilman Henry Darby raised challenge to the flag on behalf of his constituency. Calling it offensive and citing its association with southern opposition to civil rights, Darby attempted to withhold nearly $1 million in funding to the school in protest until the flag was lowered, saying in an opinion piece in a local paper that the flag had no place in an institution receiving public funds.
"It's just still as if they are trying to preserve the Confederacy," Darby wrote in the Post and Courier newspaper.
The city council backed him on this, voting 8-1 to delay disbursement of $975,000 to the school pending the Attorney General's opinion on the matter, at the request of two state Senators.
Solicitor General Robert D. Cook's opinion on the matter though, was that the flag will remain. "In our opinion, this flag would be protected in its present location by the Heritage Act as a 'monument' or 'memorial' erected on public property of the state," he wrote.
The Heritage Act was passed in 2000 to protect established monuments and memorials relating to American wars and events of Native American or African American significance on public property. The legislation was a compromise to win support for removing the Confederate battle flag from atop the Statehouse.
"The General Assembly has mandated, by virtue of the Heritage Act, that monuments and memorials honoring the gallantry and sacrifice of this state's various wars are protected," Cook's letter reads. "It is thus our opinion that the flag referenced in your letter, the Confederate Battle Flag, placed in Summerall Hall in 1939 is protected by the Heritage Act."
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Steele, chairman of The Citadel Board of Visitors, said, "We understand and respect the fact that any flag brings up strong emotions. We hope that the Attorney General's decision that the flag's location is set by the Heritage Act will bring closure for those who have raised this issue."
But Dot Scott, president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP, found little closure in Cook's decision.
"It's not going to be palatable to the majority of African-American people and the people of good will. You cannot divorce the flag from the slavery issue," she said.