Confederate flag sparks boycott of S. Carolina by black U.S. church members

(ENI) — African American members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a U.S.-based Protestant denomination, are joining other church bodies in boycotting the state of South Carolina for displaying the Confederate flag on the state capitol grounds.

The National Convocation, a conference of some 1,000 African American Christian Church members had scheduled its 2010 biennial session in Charleston, S.C., but it dropped plans for the South Carolina meeting at the request of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The NAACP, one of the most prominent civil rights groups in the United States, has called for a national boycott of South Carolina until the state removes the Confederate flag from a memorial outside the state capitol in the city of Columbia.

For years, the flag had flown above the capitol, and after heated controversy and as a compromise between critics and supporters of the flag it was moved to a memorial site outside the state capital that honors South Carolina history.

The flag of the Confederate states was used by the southern states that seceded from the United States during the 1861 to 1865 U.S. civil war. It is a battle flag, sometimes referred to as the Southern Cross. Supporters of the flag say it is a symbol of history and heritage that should be honored, while critics say it is a potent symbol of the painful legacy of slavery and racial segregation.

The Disciples National Convocation had already begun signing hotel contracts for their 2010 meeting, but the NAACP urged the church to change venues. The denominational group joined other U.S. church bodies — including groupings linked to the U.S. Roman Catholic Church, the African Methodist Episcopal and United Methodist — that have supported the NAACP boycott of South Carolina, according to DisciplesWorld, a magazine and news service that covers the Christian Church.

Lonnie Randolph, president of the NAACP in South Carolina, quoted by DisciplesWorld, told church members, “I’ve been a member of the NAACP for 50 years. I’ve been marching 50 years. There’s just as much to march about today. The flag was first placed above the state capitol to protest the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It is a symbol of one of the most racist organizations in America. This matter is serious. We are fighting for simple truths. Your support will help strengthen us.”

Church officials said the NAACP will help the denomination recoup the US $30,035 cancellation fee for the hotel reservations.

The convocation met during the denomination’s July 29 to August 2 general assembly in Indianapolis, Ind.