The Buzz

THE BUZZ: SC lawmaker won’t let the Confederate flag go

Rep. Christopher Corley, R- Aiken, shows his frustration by waving a white flag of surrender during debate over a Senate bill calling for the Confederate flag to be removed from the Capitol grounds in July.
Rep. Christopher Corley, R- Aiken, shows his frustration by waving a white flag of surrender during debate over a Senate bill calling for the Confederate flag to be removed from the Capitol grounds in July. AP

Just because Chris Corley lost the battle to keep the Confederate flag flying at the S.C. State House does not mean the freshman Republican legislator from Aiken is giving up the war.

Corley perhaps is best known for suggesting the state replace the Confederate flag with a white flag of surrender during the lengthy flag debate this summer.

Last week, however, he introduced a bill that would let voters decide whether to restore the Civil War banner to the State House’s north lawn. He also sent out Christmas cards — featuring a photo of the Confederate flag at the State House — admonishing his colleagues for banishing it.

“May your Christmas be filled with memories of a happier time when South Carolina’s leaders possessed morals, convictions and the principles to stand for what is right,” the card read. It finishes with: “May you have a blessed Christmas, and may you take this joyous time as an opportunity to ask for forgiveness of all your sins such as betrayal.”

The attorney, who practices in Augusta, is building a reputation as a bit of a political flamethrower in the Republican-controlled General Assembly. There, Corley has fired barbs at GOP colleagues as well as Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.

Corley told The Buzz that his Christmas card’s message was supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek tweak at lawmakers who, he said, chose speedy political correctness over the views of their constituents.

“It’s supposed to get people to think about why you are up there,” he said. “You’re there to represent the will of the people. You’re not up there to be royalty. They betrayed the will of their constituents.”

Corley is unhappy the flag decision came during a specially called session in July, just weeks after state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, D-Jasper, was gunned down with eight other parishioners at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church.

“You really want to mend racial tension and racial strife?” he asked. “Don’t go making backroom deals. You’ll have one group who gets the short end of stick and make the side even more mad and hurt the goal of bringing all of South Carolina together.”

Lawmakers should have waited until they met again in January to consider proposals to take down the flag, letting the bills go through the normal House and Senate committees before a final vote, Corley said.

The General Assembly still would have voted to remove the flag, Corley thinks. But the debate would have been more open and inclusive, he added.

Despite wanting to keep the flag, Corley has no interest in spending more than $5 million to expand the S.C. Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum to accommodate the flag removed from the State House grounds in July.

That money should go to roads and other needs, said the 35-year-old father of three. “A piece of cloth is not a big issue when you consider what the state has gone through.”

This year, Corley showed his ire for Haley in Facebook posts, addressing her as “Governor” Haley and as a Nimrata, her birth name. Corley said he is unhappy with what he called Haley’s petty acts, including sending legislators her roads proposal after House members had spent months drafting their own plan.

“She’s trying very hard to get to Washington, D.C., and not doing enough for the citizens of South Carolina,” he said.

Corley finds fault with other GOP colleagues as well.

He suspects some Republican lawmakers who voted to punt the flag could face challengers in June’s GOP primary because they did not include their constituents in their quick decision. “They were not able to go home and gauge them.”

Corley, who succeeded Roland Smith after he retired from office, understands he also could draw a primary opponent.

If he loses his seat, “it would not be end of the world for me,” Corley said. “It seems a lot of more glamorous when you’re running for office than when you get up there.”

A call for holiday religious freedom

Told “no” to your nativity scene? The Palmetto Family Council has started a “Defend Christmas Freedom Hotline” for folks to report religious freedom violations in South Carolina.

The Columbia-based organization, which has opposed same-sex marriage and pushed for abortion limits, wants “real” complaints, according to an email.

Gripes about Starbucks’ red cups, clerks wishing customers “Happy Holidays” or school calendars saying “Winter Break” are not the aim.

“Every year, we get random calls,” Palmetto Family Council president Oran Smith said. “By formalizing it a bit we hope to help folks think through what is a real threat and what is Internet squawk.”

The hotline has yielded some calls. The council is researching the credibility of complaints about undisclosed government agencies “banning a Christian symbol of Christmas from a person’s personal space,” Smith said.

The hotline is not just to defend Christmas.

“Our effort applies to any religious holiday observance — Hanukkah, et cetera, as well,” Smith said.

When no application is needed

Armchair coaches who want to apply for Steve Spurrier’s old job with the Gamecocks will have to call University of South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner directly.

While most state jobs must be posted publicly for at least five working days, openings for athletics coaches at state universities are exempted from that pesky requirement by S.C. law.

Turns out so are jobs in the General Assembly, Judicial Department and governor’s office.

Perhaps some of USC’s coaching also-rans can get work with the House Education and Public Works Committee.

2016 in SC

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas: Taking part in U.S. Sen. Tim Scott’s presidential town hall meeting Monday in Greenville.

Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio: Participating in a Conservative Leadership Project town hall meeting Tuesday with S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson in Myrtle Beach.

GOP businessman Donald Trump: Holding a Pearl Harbor Day rally Monday at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant and participating in a Conservative Leadership Project town hall meeting Saturday with Wilson at University of South Carolina-Aiken.

Follow Shain on Twitter: @andyshain

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