Residents speak about controversial flying of Confederate flag in Faith July Fourth parade

Published 12:09 am Thursday, December 15, 2022

FAITH — During the public comment portion of Faith’s Town Board meeting Tuesday night, several people spoke about the controversial flying of the Confederate flag during Faith’s Fourth of July parade.

Two residents who live in Salisbury, Mary Walker and Whitney Peckman, spoke out against flying the flag.

Walker attended the last town board meeting in October and listened to families speak about wanting to attend the Fourth of July parade, but were hesitant because seeing the Confederate flag made them feel “uncomfortable and intimidated.”

Walker cited a June 2020 decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals where a judge ruled a suburban city near Atlanta did not violate constitutional rights of a Sons of Confederate Veterans group by banning the Confederate battle flag from an annual Old Soldiers Day Parade, according to an Associated Press report.

“Governments are not obliged under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to permit the presence of a rebellious army’s battle flag in the pro-veterans parades that they fund and organize,” Chief Circuit Judge of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals William Pryor wrote in the decision. Rowan County falls under the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, which is under the jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Walker asked the mayor and the town aldermen to change “a few words in their town ordinance to allow only the American flag and the North Carolina flag in the parade.”

Peckman spoke next, reiterating that the Confederate flag is a symbol of hatred and discrimination and comparing it to the Nazi flag. She asked the town board to retire the flag during the July Fourth parade, not to deny those who have ancestry who fought on the Confederate side of the Civil War, but in consideration of the beliefs of others who find the flag offensive.

“Put away the symbol that you know is one of terrorism and intimidation,” Peckman said.

Speaking on behalf of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a nonprofit organization that has participated in past Faith parades, was Tim Arey, of Granite Quarry. Arey’s great-great-grandfather was a Confederate soldier who fought in the Civil War because he thought it was an “illegal invasion that happened to the states from the federal government who tried to force their will and their way upon the Southern people.”

“When we’re in a parade, we are trying to support the memory of our ancestors,” Arey said.

Former mayor of Faith, Todd Peeler, was the last to speak in the public comment. Peeler asked those in attendance to not label Faith as a racist town.

“Faith is a small town with a big heart. And I kind of take offense to anybody that comes in here, not living here and tells us what a bunch of racists we are, cause that’s not who we are,” Peeler said. “We’re not racist people here. We love everybody. Everybody’s welcome here.”

He said he understands why people would be upset at the flying of the Confederate flag, but doesn’t want those who live outside of Faith to “categorize all of us, or all of Faith, as one thing.”

After the public comment section ended, the Mayor of Faith, Randall Barger, thanked those who spoke.

“We appreciate everybody’s opinions and that’s what we’re here about. Everybody has an opinion and we don’t all have to agree, but we do have the right for you to do so,” Barger said. “I appreciate your comments, everybody that spoke tonight.”

The Faith Town Board posted a response on Nov 14. to public concerns over the parade:

“The Town of Faith’s elected officials must protect the Constitutional rights of all citizens. The town will avoid being drawn into a dispute over protected speech on either side of the dispute, between citizens and involving potential implications on Constitutional rights. As the governing body, our role is limited to determining whether a parade permit should be issued. We believe any discussion as to the content of the parade is best left to the parade organizers and any concerned citizens.”

The organizers of the Faith Fourth of July parade are the Faith American Legion Post #327, the Faith American Legion Auxiliary Unit #327, and the Faith Civitans. This next year will be the 76th running of the parade.