VA is changing policy on displaying of Confederate flag at cemeteries



Hundreds of pro-Confederate flag and gun supporters rally at Stone Mountain Park on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015, in Stone Mountain, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs is changing its policy on displaying the Confederate flag, at the urging of Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., and other House Democrats.

In a letter to Huffman, Interim Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Ronald Walters wrote that the new policy will prohibit the Confederate flag from being flown at any permanent flag pole at a national cemetery.

“We are aware of the concerns of those who wish to see Confederate flags removed from public venues because they are perceived by many as a symbol of racial intolerance,” the letter states. “We are also aware that the national cemeteries originated during the Civil War and that they are the final resting places of those who served on both sides of that conflict and as such flags of the Confederacy are also viewed by some merely as historical symbols.”


The policy will continue to allow private organizations to display the Confederate flag on individual Confederate soldiers’ graves on certain days. The flag can also still be displayed at certain ceremonies and at private burials taking place at national cemeteries.

Earlier this year, the House voted 265-159 to approve an amendment with the new policy to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, but the amendment was not included in the final version.

At that point Huffman, who led the amendment with Reps. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn., requested that the Department of Veterans Affairs make the policy change itself.

“While racist individuals and groups continue to embrace the Confederate battle flag, it has never been more clear that this anachronistic symbol of hatred, slavery and insurrection should not be promoted or gratuitously displayed on federal property,” Huffman said in a statement. “That’s why I am so grateful that the Department of Veterans Affairs responded to our letter and to public concerns and decided to prohibit the large-scale display of Confederate flags on our national veterans cemeteries.”


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