Before the overflow crowd could speak up at the King City Council meeting on Monday night, the Council made a decision on the Christian flag that shocked the majority of those gathered. They voted to choose option three that had been presented at the public meeting on Oct. 11--to approve a limited public forum approach to the flagpole at the Veterans Memorial in King’s Central Park.
The stunned silence that greeted the final vote on Nov. 1 did not last long. Every person who later spoke during the public comments session disagreed with the decision. Many vowed to make sure the present Council members would not be re-elected. One woman even walked out in the middle of the comments, crying out that she had “heard all she could stomach.”
Before the floor was opened to the public, however, the Council members had a chance to speak. Mayor Jack Warren explained that with the limited public forum approach, “certain specifics. . .would have to be developed later on.”
Council member Terri Fowler stated that since the original intent of the Memorial when opened in 2004 was for it to be city property, she was not in favor of option two--to transfer it to a private entity. She spoke favorably of the limited public forum option.
Wesley Carter, the sole Council member who voted on Sept. 15 not to remove the flag, agreed, “I feel the forum is the best way to honor veterans, and that is what the Memorial is for.”
Mayor Pro Tem Dillard Burnette noted that he played a role in establishing the Veterans Memorial and that it was one of the best things he has ever been involved in. “My name is on a plaque up there,” he said. “It’s to honor the veterans. . .It’s time to remember what it’s about.” He, too, backed the limited public forum option, concluding, “It’s time to set this thing to rest.”
Council member Charles Allen did not comment.
Carter made the motion to approve the limited public forum option and was seconded by Fowler. Warren called it a unanimous decision, but Allen was conspicuously silent during the vote. A corresponding resolution with several components was approved. One of those components was that “the Council wishes to develop a policy for consideration that will allow veterans and the family of veterans access to the Veterans’ Memorial located at Central Park for the express and limited purpose of publicly recognizing the faith traditions that inspired and sustained the service and sacrifice made by the veterans. . .”
Eugene Kiger, a veteran and King resident, was first up: “The decision you made was opposite of 6,000 people. . .You’ve opened the door for our veterans to fall at the feet of a Muslim flag.”
Chaplain Kevin Winemiller from Winston-Salem carried a Christian flag to the podium, explaining that he held this flag in his bunker while fighting in Iraq. He called the Council’s decision “a shame and a disgrace. . .not what America is all about.”
Winemiller turned to face the audience and quoted Scripture with regard to the still anonymous “Steve,” “Where is thine accuser? We don’t even know his name.”
Later in the night, Katelyn Hills of King elaborated on Winemiller’s point, “We all gave up our integrity just to please one person.”
Sammy Collins, a veteran from Winston-Salem, was firm in his declaration: “We’ve got to keep the ACLU sitting at the back of the bus. . .The further we go down with this, the harder it is to get up.”
Nathanael Cline of King had addressed the Council once before in full military dress. This time he appeared in civilian garb and described himself now as just “a frustrated citizen of the city of King.” He admitted that the council had “an extremely difficult decision to make” and that no decision “would make everyone happy,” but Cline berated them for not giving adequate information to the citizens: “We requested information and we heard nothing. Then a sudden vote.”
As Cline spoke, a lady in the crowd cried out, “Tyranny!”
Sid Main of King stated passionately that he was misled, that he was under the impression that what he would say at the meeting would matter. He read a Scripture about denying Christ before men and hence being denied by Christ, then concluded, “Please change this vote that will, in fact, deny Jesus Christ in public.”
Rev. Barry Marshall of King told the Council that he nearly came up to the podium simply to hold the Christian flag and say nothing for his three allotted minutes. “Because that’s what I feel like you been hearing--nothing.”
Pastor David Keaton of King was blunt as well: “I’m disappointed in every one of you. . .You let Goliath slap you in the face. . .The ACLU’s tickled to death now. . .I pray to God tonight you don’t sleep a wink.”
The next speaker, Robert Lucas of Germanton, asked, “Did you consult an attorney when you built the original monument in 2004?” He threatened to find a list of those who gave private donations of over $200,000 to help build the Memorial and seek legal counsel for them to get their money back.
Fredricka Anne Cecile of King read a creative story about Noah being asked to build the ark in modern times. The analogy told of the obstacles--building permits, impact studies, a ban on cutting trees, the IRS seizing Noah’s assets because one man complained about him building the ark. When 21st century Noah was hindered in complying with God’s wishes, the sun came out and a rainbow appeared. Noah asked God, “Does this mean you’re not going to destroy the earth?”
God replied, “The government beat me to it.”
Stephen James of King was to the point when he took the podium. “I’ve been sitting at that Memorial for 40 days, and I haven’t seen a one of you!” he accused the Council. “Impeachment proceedings can be started against you real soon.” James stated that he is filing for a hearing with the State of North Carolina. “We’re gonna get our flag back up!” he declared, adding that he is going to run for the Council in the next election.
Some speakers were emotionally distressed. A tearful Hannah Williams begged “Mayor Jack” to stand up for the city of King. Mary Peeples of King told the mayor she and others would’ve helped him carry his burden when he went through a hard time recently. “We would’ve stood with you, Mayor,” Peeples told him. “You didn’t stand with us.”
Darrell Calloway of Siloam told how God’s presence has been felt at the Memorial while the flag issue has been going on. “It’s the way King used to be, the way it should be,” Calloway lamented. He urged the Council to fight, “I’d rather see the flagpole bare than sidestep the issue.”
Doni Juarez of King was more visibly upset. “I’m disgusted,” she spoke vehemently. “We’ve talked. You’re not listening. You have stabbed us in the back. . .We were under the impression you were gonna listen to us.” Juarez insisted that the Council did not represent the people of King but rather special interest groups.
Chris Main of King was calm in expressing her disappointment, but she questioned two things: why the meeting was an open forum if the Council was not going to listen and why a veteran such as Winemiller could fly the Christian flag in Iraq but not here in America.
Charlie Marshall is a new resident of King but is not happy with the way his adopted town has handled things. “Already I’m disgusted,” he admitted. “The Constitution is at stake here, too.” Charlie reminded the Council that Thomas Jefferson’s separation of church and state comment was made while talking to a church group in the interest of preserving their liberty from government--not the other way around.
Dr. Ron Baity of Return America went further with historical record. He noted that when the forefathers landed on these shores, they specifically stated that their intent was to advance the Christian religion. Baity told how the founding fathers used Scripture specifically to make decisions 34 percent of the time. They were influenced by Scripture in decision-making 94 percent of the time. Baity related how the American patriots “were outnumbered. . .outmanned” but ended up defeating the largest army on earth.
The final speaker of the night was Cheryl Boles of King. She quoted Jefferson: “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Boles questioned the Council, “What would Jesus do?” She asked if they would be able to look Him in the face after what they had done that night.
The next meeting of the King City Council is Mon., Dec. 6, at 7 p.m. at King City Hall.