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September 23, 2014 | 28th Elul 5774

Confederate Battle Flag

Adopted by the Executive Board of the
Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
March, 2004


The Confederate battle flag1, while sometimes described as a proud emblem of Southern heritage, is a shameful reminder of slavery, a rallying banner for segregation, and an enduring symbol of defiance, secession from the United States of America, and, in its very essence, war.

This symbol of bigotry and oppression has been appropriated by the Ku Klux Klan and other racist hate groups and white supremacists. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, more than 500 extremist groups use the battle flag as one of their symbols.

Several Southern states have flown the Confederate battle flag along with the U.S. and state flags over their statehouses. South Carolina still flies the battle flag on a prominent flagpole on the front lawn of the state capitol, an offensive public display of racial prejudice and a reminder of the shameful history of slavery and oppression.

Other states have incorporated the controversial symbol into the design of their own state flags. In these cases, the Confederate battle flag has represented -- at times explicitly -- an era of segregation and racism. It was adopted in Georgia in 1956 in protest of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision. Mississippi.s 1894 flag, which includes the battle flag emblem, was approved with disturbingly low voter turnout in a popular referendum in April 2001. Like the battle flag, this state flag fosters racism.

Not only is the Confederate battle flag an emblem of racism, but, whatever one's views about the meaning of the flag, the fact that the flag has caused such controversy is in itself a reason for change -- a state flag should be a symbol of unity, not divisiveness and bitter defiance. It should be a symbol which every citizen may feel proud to salute. One thing is certain -- even though many African Americans have lived and still reside under the Confederate flag, no part of the African-American community had any input when that flag was originally conceived. A symbol born out of discrimination and persecution can neither represent nor unify a citizenry, but only exclude and divide. The Confederate battle flag belongs in museums and history lessons, lest we forget. However, such a symbol should not be displayed in any way that implies government endorsement of the hateful substance at the core of the symbol.

The Jewish people know all too well the sting of bigotry, oppression, and slavery triggered by powerful symbols of hate. We will always feel a spiritual kinship to those who suffer under the yolk of oppression and persecution, and together we will work to see that justice is served for all God.s children.

THEREFORE, The Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism resolves to:

  1. Reaffirm our tradition of speaking out as a strong voice in favor of civil rights, racial harmony, and equal opportunity;

  2. Oppose the inclusion of the Confederate battle flag in state and local flags and official seals, emblems, and logos;

  3. Oppose the display of the Confederate battle flag on public property;

  4. Urge our regions and congregations to forge partnerships with broad-based racial and religious organizations and coalitions at the state and local level to further these goals;

  5. Promote awareness among our congregants and clergy of the history and power of symbols of hate, in order that they may be better equipped to combat them and to educate others about them; and

  6. Express our faith that a day will come when racial prejudice, bigotry, and hatred will be relics of the past, like the Confederate battle flag itself.

1 A distinct national flag flew over the Confederate States before the adoption of the battle flag incorporating the Southern Cross. However, it is precisely this battle flag, which is now most commonly associated with the Confederacy, that embodies the spirit of secessionism and served to rally the South and lead them into war.


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