U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn is helping bring the debate over the display of the Confederate flag in South Carolina back to the attention of his colleagues in Congress.
The only Democrat in the Palmetto State’s congressional delegation, Clyburn said Wednesday that he supports a proposed amendment to the country’s annual defense policy bill to bar federal money from going to any senior Reserve Officer Training Corps program at a school where the Confederate flag is displayed.
"The flag, which never was the official flag of the Confederacy, is a symbol of hate, racial oppression, and resistance to the rule of law," Clyburn said in a statement on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, this objectionable banner currently flies at The Citadel in my congressional district.”
The amendment is being proposed by U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., as part of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.
The Citadel, a public military college in Charleston has displayed a Confederate flag in its Summerall Chapel since 1939.
"It has been used for over a century as a symbol of Southern defiance and white supremacy; it was viewed as such by the perpetrator of the horrific shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston on June 17 of last year," Clyburn said in the statement.
Last summer, the Columbia Democrat joined with his Republican colleagues in Congress and GOP Gov. Nikki Haley to back the removal of the Confederate flag from the S.C. State House grounds after the slaying of nine black congregants at Emanuel. The accused shooter, Dylan Roof, posted photos of himself with the Confederate banner online.
Clyburn also took a shot at S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson for barring the flag's removal from the Citadel chapel by citing the Heritage Act, passed by the S.C. General Assembly in 2000. In 2014, Wilson released an opinion stating the Heritage Act bars the Citadel from removing the flag from a prominent place on campus.
The Citadel Board of Visitors voted 9-3 last summer to remove the Confederate banner from the chapel but acknowledged it would require an amendment to the Heritage Act by the state Legislature.
Current students at the Citadel would be allowed to keep their ROTC scholarships and complete its programs, Clyburn said.
This is not the first time that the Citadel’s display of the Confederate banner has been in the national spotlight.
In December, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for the removal of the flag after photos were posted online showing Citadel cadets wearing white pillowcases that resembled Ku Klux Klan robes and hoods.
If the House Armed Services Committee adopts Smith’s amendment, it still would need to make it through the House-Senate negotiations on a final defense bill next month.
"Any vote to block or weaken the amendment is a vote to support the continued display of the Confederate battle flag at The Citadel and across the country,” Clyburn said of Smith’s amendment.