Washington, D.C.- The large-scale display of Confederate flags in national veterans cemeteries will no longer be allowed, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced in a letter to Congress. The policy change came at the urging of Reps. Jared Huffman (D-CA), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Keith Ellison (D-MN), and 82 other members of Congress.
Under this new policy, Confederate flags will never be allowed to be displayed from any flagpole in a VA national cemetery. This new change to National Cemetery Administration policy will be implemented consistent with an amendment to the VA funding bill for fiscal year 2017 offered earlier this year by Reps. Huffman, Gallego, and Ellison.
“This month we have seen the Confederate battle flag sold and displayed at Donald Trump rallies and proudly unfurled at a so-called ‘White Lives Matter’ protest. While racist individuals and groups continue to embrace the Confederate battle flag, it has never been more clear that this anachronistic symbol of hatred, slavery, and insurrection should not be promoted or gratuitously displayed on federal property,” said Rep. Huffman. “That’s why I am so grateful that the Department of Veterans Affairs responded to our letter and to public concerns and decided to prohibit the large-scale display of Confederate flags on our national veterans cemeteries.”
“For decades, the Confederate battle flag has been the symbol of racist groups and individuals like the Ku Klux Klan and Dylann Roof, who murdered nine worshipers at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina,” said Rep. Ellison. “But the Confederate battle flag is more than a symbol of racism – it is also a symbol of treason. We must not forget or dishonor the brave men and women who died during the Civil War fighting for liberty and freedom. The flag of their enemies should not fly over their graves. The announcement by the Department of Veterans Affairs ending large-scale displays of the Confederate battle flag will ensure that their sacrifices continue to be honored.”
“The Confederate flag is a symbol of racism and hatred, and it is a painful reminder of a terrible time in our history,” said Rep. Gallego. “I’m pleased to hear that the VA is taking this first step to ban this symbol of intolerance in VA cemeteries where we honor American heroes. The Confederate flag does not represent the values our veterans fought to defend, and we shouldn’t permit it to be displayed at all in places where we pay tribute to their sacrifices.”
Despite the House’s overwhelming approval of the Huffman-Gallego-Ellison amendment during floor consideration of the VA appropriations bill, a final version of the legislation omitted the prohibition on Confederate flag displays and was approved by party-line vote.
The policy change does not apply to individual gravesites.