Plans are in place for the schedule of flags to be flown at the King Veterans Memorial to be determined Thursday, Dec. 20 at 2 p.m. at the American Legion in King.
City Manager John Cater confirmed via email on Monday that the lottery was still scheduled for this Thursday. He said then that last he had heard, the city had received around 90 applications. He did not have access to the exact figure at the time.
Since there are more applications than last year, Cater said the entries would go into a drum like the first year instead of putting numbered pingpong balls in a Bingo container as in 2011. The selections will be made at random.
The lottery, also known as a limited public forum, takes place at the end of every year. Per city policy, applications are accepted between Dec. 1 and 15 each year. A public notice ad from the city in November explained that the lottery would be held at 2 p.m. on Dec. 20 at the Carl Calloway American Legion Post 290, located at 446 S. Main Street, King. But some King residents noted a few weeks later that the announcement could no longer be found on the city website. Cater did not respond last week to an email regarding the disappearance of the announcement.
A policy for the limited public forum can still be found on the city website under “Public Notices.” The policy determines which flag flies at the 11th flagpole at the memorial. The flags have to be flown in honor of veterans who lived in the King area and must represent one of 41 approved flags. Selected applicants can also choose not to fly a flag during their week.
Last year the city reported receiving 59 certified applications for the lottery and 14 that did not qualify under the certification criteria. The 59 eligible applications were numbered, and numbered pingpong balls were put into a Bingo container and selected at random.
According to the city’s policy: “Any citizen who is domiciled in King, North Carolina shall be permitted to request the flying of a flag representing the faith tradition of a veteran flown in honor of the veteran’s service or sacrifice.” Others who can apply are family members of veterans who were memorialized by having their names inscribed on a quarry tile at the Veterans Memorial by Nov. 30, 2010.
The determination of which religious flags will fly at the memorial next year comes at a time when the city is in the middle of a lawsuit with Steven Hewett regarding religious symbols.
In early November, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., filed a lawsuit on behalf of local veteran Steven Hewett against King. Americans United claimed in a statement that the city “is violating the U.S. and North Carolina constitutions by displaying sectarian symbols at a veterans’ memorial.”
The group is asking the city to remove Christian symbols from its veterans memorial, including the Christian flag and a statue that depicts a soldier kneeling before a cross.
Hewett, a former police officer and decorated U.S. Army veteran, first asked the city to remove the Christian flag from the city’s veterans memorial in 2010. The request sparked strong controversy in the city and resulted in King creating a lottery system for determining which religious flag will fly at the memorial each week.
The Christian flag flies the majority of weeks, which is pointed out in the lawsuit paperwork. In both 2011 and 2012, the schedule showed the Christian flag flying all but five weeks of the year.