WASHINGTON – Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn released the following statement on the House Armed Services Committee’s markup of the National Defense Authorization Act:
I strongly support Ranking Member Adam Smith’s proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to bar federal funds for senior ROTC programs from being used by institutions that display the Confederate battle flag. Unfortunately, this objectionable banner currently flies at The Citadel in my congressional district.
Ranking Member Smith’s amendment has been crafted to exempt all current students at The Citadel and any other institution that might be affected. Consequently, all current students would be allowed to keep their ROTC scholarships, complete their programs, and receive their commissions.
This flag, which never was the official flag of the Confederacy, is a symbol of hate, racial oppression, and resistance to the rule of law. It did not fly at The Citadel immediately after the Civil War but was raised to its current location in Summerall Chapel in 1939, and it was placed in its current position by the institution. It has been used for over a century as a symbol of southern defiance and white supremacy; it was viewed as such by the perpetrator of the horrific shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston on June 17 of last year. One of the victims of the Emanuel attack was a Citadel graduate, and six of its employees lost family members in that attack.
Following those tragic, racially motivated shootings, I joined Governor Nikki Haley; Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott; Representatives Mark Sanford, Mick Mulvaney, Joe Wilson, and Tom Rice; and a host of other elected officials and citizens in calling for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House. The Board of Visitors of The Citadel joined us, voting 9-3 on June 23, 2015 to remove the Confederate battle flag from Summerall Chapel.
But while the South Carolina General Assembly voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds, the Attorney General has opined that The Citadel is barred from removing the flag from a prominent place on its campus by the so-called Heritage Act, which the General Assembly passed in 2000. While I personally question whether or not a gift from an alumnus is covered by that ill-advised Act, our state legislators acted honorably in removing the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds and should do so again in this instance. Americans’ tax dollars should be directed to institutions free of symbols of hatred.
I urge the members of the House Armed Services Committee and my colleagues in the South Carolina Congressional Delegation to support Ranking Member Smith’s amendment. Any vote to block or weaken the amendment is a vote to support the continued display of the Confederate battle flag at The Citadel and across the country.