In the wake of the Charleston shooting that left nine African-Americans dead in an apparent expression of racial animus, the debate over the display of the Confederate Flag on statehouse grounds has been reignited.
The media has emphasized the difficulty of removing the flag, citing a state law which requires a two-thirds majority to do so. The Los Angeles Times cited the two-thirds requirement in an article entitled “Why the Confederate flag won’t come down in South Carolina anytime soon.” The Washington Post wrote “Any change to the position of the flag requires two-thirds approval of the state legislature.” Poltifact rated the claim that “any changes” to the display of the Confederate flag in South Carolina required a supermajority vote as “true.”
But it isn’t true. Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC) explained:
Current SC law may require 2/3 vote to remove the Confed Battle flag but legislators could change that law w/ a simply majority. #takeitdown
— James E. Clyburn (@Clyburn) June 21, 2015
In an interview with ThinkProgress, South Carolina representative James Smith, who is also a practicing attorney, said he “agreed with the Congressman 100 percent.” According to Smith, the provision of the South Carolina law requiring a two-thirds vote for any changes is “facially unconstitutional.” If the state legislature, by a simple majority, voted to repeal the law and remove the Confederate Flag from statehouse grounds, Smith believes that South Carolina courts would deem that a valid exercise of legislative power.
The South Carolina Constitution requires constitutional amendments to be approved by a two-thirds majority. But the law regarding the display of the Confederate flag was not passed as a constitutional amendment. It is an ordinary piece of legislation.
Smith hopes, however, that this debate proves unnecessary. He says discussions are underway to extend the legislative session to consider legislation to remove the flag. “I think we’ll have more than a two-thirds vote when we get down to it,” Smith said.
[chanting: “Take it down! Take it down!”]
Igor Volsky: If you had to make a quick case to the people who say the flag is heritage, the flag is their culture, what would you say to those people?
Woman: The swastika also represents the history of Germany but it is not on any state grounds.
Volsky: After a 21 year old white shooter entered a historic african american church and killed 9 people in an effort to start a race war, every flag in south carolina has been flying at half mast — except for this one.
State Sen. Brad Hutto (D): It was put up over the State House, not by the veterans returning from the war. It was put up in the ’60s as part of the Jim Crow era and so it was put up for inappropriate reasons. I mean, they suggested that it was to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the war. And, if it were true, then it should have come down in 1965
Volsky: On July 1, 2001, the flag was moved to where it stands today — this civil war memorial in front of the state house.
Rep. Mark Sanford (R-South Carolina) on CNN: It’s a symbol of my great-great-grandfather died in some battle in Manassas or Bull Run or who knows where…
Volsky: Those who defend the confederate symbol argue that it honors Southern heritage — and at this rally to tear that symbol down, attendees didn’t necessarily disagree.
Michael Scarborough: It is a part of history. History belongs in a museum. It doesn’t belong with the tacit approval of our state’s government.
Betty H. Jenkins: We lost the war, so why fly the flag?
Nicole Williams: The Swastika, a burning cross, all of those symbols are representative of hate and they’re often used in conjunction with the Confederate flag.
Anthony Ellis: It’s hurtful, just to look at it.
Volsky: The flag is is fastened to its pole and cannot be lowered or tampered with. And even the governor can’t just remove it — that requires a 2⁄3 vote by the general assembly.
Jean Bohner: I realized over the last couple of days that I’m complicit in the fact that it hangs there because I laugh with friends and say, oh you know, whatever, instead of actually working to take it down.