A small number of people gathered at the American Legion building in King last Thursday afternoon to find out which religious flags would fly at the King Veterans Memorial in 2013.
This year the Christian faith will be represented at the memorial all but five weeks of the year.
The Christian flag will fly 43 weeks of the year. The Christian Cross will appear four weeks, and there will be no religious flag five weeks.
Out of the 89 certified flag applications, 83 were related to Christianity. Last year the city reported receiving only 59 certified applications for the lottery.
A few city employees and 10-15 citizens gathered for the low-key lottery. Ping pong balls bearing the 89 numbers were placed in a bingo container and selected at random. Each ball was placed in front of a video camera so citizens could see on a TV which numbers had been drawn. A list of the applications and pencils were provided on the tables so people could keep track of which numbers had been selected and which veterans would be honored. The process took about 30 minutes to complete.
The lottery, also known as a limited public forum, takes place at the end of every year to determine which religious flags, if any, will fly on the 11th flagpole at the King Veterans Memorial. The Christian flag at the memorial became a source of controversy a few years ago, so the city created a policy governing the selection of flags.
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. In 2013 no flag will fly the weeks of Feb. 25, March 18, June 17, Aug. 19, and Sept. 9, at the request of Steven Hewett or Steven R. Hewett.
The city is currently involved in a lawsuit over religious symbols at the veterans memorial. Earlier this month, 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 Christian flag flies the majority of weeks, which was pointed out in the lawsuit filings. In both 2011 and 2012, the schedule showed the Christian flag flying all but five weeks of the year, like this year.