Organizers in an Alabama town were pushing for the public to attend a weekend rally for a Christian flag that once flew over the city hall there, local publication the Gadsen Times reported. The flag was removed weeks ago -- after flying above Glencoe City Hall for decades -- amid pressure from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The organizers were calling the event "United We Stand," and have scheduled the rally for 6:30 p.m. local time Saturday at the city hall where the flag once flew. The event is expected to feature guest speakers, including two local Republican politicians, state Rep. Mack Butler and state Sen. Phil Williams, along with Pastor Thom Harrison.
The flag was removed after the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent the city a letter in March demanding it be taken down. The removal was a decision made by city leaders to prevent legal action and a costly case after research showed they would likely lose. Glencoe Mayor Charles Gilchrist told AL.com that the prolonged legal battle might cost more than the city could afford. The Freedom From Religion Foundation said that since the city was outwardly displaying a symbol for one religion above city hall, it was violating the constitutional mandate separating church and state.
After the flag was taken down, Jeff Word, owner of local Big Chief restaurant, was given an extra Christian flag by the city, which Word then flew on a sign above his establishment. Word supported keeping the flag above Glencoe City Hall, and came to the decision to fly it above his restaurant after some nervous consideration.
— AL.com Birmingham (@ALcomBirmingham) July 8, 2015
"I didn't really sleep good," Word told AL.com in early July. "It bothered me. I talked to my wife about it, and she said, 'You've got to take a stand.' That surprised me, because usually she's the one getting on to me because I'm taking a stand about something."
The plan for the rally began soon after Word raised the flag. Had the city been willing to raise flags of all other religions, the display would have likely been legal. However, Glencoe officials never really considered that option, City Attorney Jim Turnbach told the Gadsen Times. After the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing for same-sex marriage nationwide, North Carolina evangelical activist Rit Varriale called for believers to fly Christian flags above American flags on their properties, saying their beliefs were under attack.