As we’ve learned over the years, there is no town function small enough, no publicly displayed copy of the Ten Commandments too obscure, no Nativity scene too inconsequential for the lawyers from the Freedom From Religion Foundation to refrain from swooping down and demanding ideological acquiescence or a metric ton of money.
When the residents of one small Mississippi town were threatened with a lawsuit by the atheist group for including a Christian flag in its veterans memorial, the mayor decided it was better to roll over than to risk the $500,000 the town would have to pay if it lost. The residents thought otherwise, however — and now the town is fighting back.
According to WCBI-TV, Rienzi — a town of 313 in northeast Mississippi — erected its veterans memorial downtown last year with a Christian flag flying next to the American one. However, after the trouble-making Madison, Wisconsin-based atheist group sent the town a letter threatening a lawsuit, the flag was taken down and replaced by the village flag.
“(T)hey asked me, would I remove my flag so I complied and removed it,” Rienzi Mayor Walter Williams told the station. “It wasn’t because I wanted to, but it was because I didn’t want to go no further of putting the town in jeopardy over me making a decision. They told me that a lawsuit could be filed on their behalf against me if I did not comply.”
The FFRF, which cited a complaint by one individual about the flag, is no stranger to Mississippi lawmakers.
“The first time I heard of this group … was at Jackson, Mississippi, when I went into the Capitol Building during the Christmas season and they were protesting a Nativity scene,” state Rep. Tracy Arnold said. “Can you believe that?”
Unfortunately, as someone who’s covered the FFRF more than once before, I can. However, it quickly became apparent that the one individual who complained about the flag to the FFRF was vastly outnumbered by the people of Rienzi.
According to the U.K. Daily Mail, more than 100 people rallied at the veterans memorial on Saturday to voice their anger over the removal.
“This is a Christian community here,” Kevin Nelms told the crowd. “You take one down, we’re going to put several back up. I promise you that. That’s just the way we do things here in the South.”
Given the turnout, Mayor Williams seems to have reconsidered. Now, the mayor seems to be willing to face the $500,000 lawsuit head on.
“You can bet your bottom dollar, that flag is going to fly again,” the mayor said.
According WREG-TV, Williams is consulting a lawyer to assess the town’s options.
Whatever happens, it shows where the town of Rienzi stands — and it’s not with the atheists.
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