AG's office offers opinion in favor of leaving Citadel's Confederate Flag in place

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The state Attorney General's office says the Confederate flag hanging in Summerall Chapel is a memorial and should remain in place.

Solicitor General Robert Cook on Tuesday offered its requested opinion on the Confederate Battle Flag flying in The Citadel's Summerall Chapel.

The opinion was released a week after Charleston County Council members deferred to the Attorney General in the matter after Councilman Henry Darby proposed cutting nearly $1 million in funding from the school until it had removed the flag.

After the opinion was released, Darby said he would not continue to fight the matter.

"I stood up for my constituents but the law has been given and we must move on," he said.

The Confederate Battle Flag has hung in the chapel since 1939 when it was gifted to then-president Gen. Charles Summerall.

According to the four-page opinion, the flag falls under the state's Heritage Act protecting monuments and memorials pertaining to wartime.

The Attorney General's office has, over the last 15 years, rendered three other opinions on similar questions of the Heritage Act. In each, it opined the monuments or memorials could not be moved.

Tuesday's opinion points to a 2001 predecessor dealing with monuments and memorials donated by private groups, similar to the question posed by county council members.

In 1939, the Cadet Yacht Club gave the president the flag as a gift after student engineers said the acoustics in the chapel would improve with flags hanging from the ceiling.

Summerall, after receiving the flag, reportedly referred to it as "a tribute to the courage and valor shown by American manhood in fighting for a cause."

That Confederate Battle Flag was the first of many gifts and exchanges between The Citadel and other states and countries.

"Accordingly, it is our opinion that this Flag may not be moved or relocated," the opinions reads.

Board of Visitors Chairman Lt. Gen. Michael Steele applauded the Attorney General's response.

"We appreciate the Attorney General's attention in reviewing the case of the Confederate Naval Jack in Summerall Chapel. The confirmation that The Citadel is following state law by treating the flag as a memorial that falls under the Heritage Act resolves this issue for the college. As the flag in the chapel is on public property and we are a state institution, we have a duty to follow the law," Steele said in a statement.

He went on to say that the military college also understood that flags do draw strong emotions and opinions.

"We understand and respect the fact that any flag brings up strong emotions. We hope that the Attorney General's decision that the flag's location is set by the Heritage Act will bring closure for those who have raised this issue," he said.