South Carolina Confederate Monument Protection Act Confirmed | South Carolina News

By JEFFREY COLLINS, Associated Press

COLUMBIA, SC (AP) – The South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that state law prohibiting anyone from moving a Confederate monument or changing the historic name of a street or building without l he authorization of the Legislative Assembly is legal.

But in the same decision, the judges overturned a requirement that two-thirds of the General Assembly must approve a move or name change.

The unanimous decision keeps South Carolina’s heritage law intact, which has prevented colleges and local governments from removing statues honoring Civil War soldiers or segregationists even as other parts of South have removed them. shot after protests sparked by the murder of African American George Floyd last year by white Minnesota police officers.

The law was passed in 2000 as part of a compromise to remove the Confederate flag from the top of the South Carolina Statehouse Dome. The rebel banner was moved to a pole on the Capitol lawn, where it flew until 2015, when lawmakers removed it after nine black church members were killed in a massacre racist in a Charleston church.

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One of the people who have sued lawmakers over the heritage law is the widow of State Senator Clementa Pinckney, pastor of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, who died in the attack.

The law specifically protects monuments from 10 wars – from the War of Independence to the Persian Gulf War. It also protects monuments honoring African Americans and Native Americans, as well as a catch-all phrase of “any historical figure or historical event.”

Jennifer Pinkney pointed out that this meant she couldn’t make any changes to a monument to her late husband unveiled this year without seeking permission from lawmakers.

Days after the Confederate flag was removed in 2015, South Carolina’s legislative leaders vowed they would not approve the removal of any other statues or the renaming of buildings under the Heritage Act and kept their word.

South Carolina Senate Speaker Harvey Peeler said in the summer of 2020 that “changing the name of a brick and mortar pile is at the bottom of my to-do list.”

He issued another statement on Wednesday: “The protections for all monuments and statues in our state have been deemed constitutional and will remain in place. “

House Speaker Jay Lucas said in 2015 that no further changes would be considered while he was the head of the chamber. After Wednesday’s decision, he repeated that promise again.

Lawmakers in 2021 even refused to take the first step towards demands to remove monuments like Orangeburg asking to remove a Confederate statue or to change its name like Clemson University asking to rename a building that currently honors the late US Senator. “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman, who led violent racist mobs to prevent black people from voting.

Left undecided after Wednesday’s ruling, this is what could happen if a local government ignores the law. The act did not involve any specific punishment for breaking it. Some Republicans have suggested cutting public funding for a local government or school, but that idea has not caught on in the Legislature.

Charleston removed a statue of former US Vice President John Calhoun from a downtown park in 2020, arguing that the city owned the statue and was on private land, so it did not fall not under the law. Calhoun was a staunch defender of slavery with a racist view that black people were better possessed by other people.

Much of Wednesday’s 22-page decision traced the story of the 2000 compromise, praising it for easing racial tensions in the state. It was signed by all the judges, including Chief Justice Don Beatty, who is only the second African-American to lead the High Court.

“As individual citizens – even judges – we could look back on these events and wish the negotiations were conducted differently. The reality, however, is that heritage law has dropped the Confederate flag from the seat of South Carolina sovereignty, ”Associate Justice John Cannon Few wrote in the decision.

The judges also rejected the argument that the heritage law had violated what is known as the “home rule” in South Carolina and illegally left the General Assembly to handle local affairs.

“They argue that local governments are in a better position to act on this issue because ‘they can be more receptive’ to the thoughts of the community. That may be true, but Home Rule is not about who has the best wisdom, ”Few wrote.

Even though the judges found the two-thirds requirement to remove or move a monument illegal, they upheld a clause in the law that said if one part was declared unconstitutional, the rest would stand.

Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at

Copyright 2021 Associated press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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