We hear a lot today from so many people and groups about the importance of our heritage.
We all have a heritage – a history, causes, groups and organizations that are special to us and which make us who we are.
We may be black or white or hispanic. We may be Baptist or Episcopalian or Jewish. We may be members of the Daughters of the American Revolution or Sons of the Confederate Veterans or Black Lives Matter, or one of thousands of groups and organizations in our Nation.
All of these are important to someone. As Americans we should be able to celebrate our heritage and our faith.
But as Americans who believe that all are entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” we are not entitled to impose our heritage on others.
For this reason, I believe that the Sons of Confederate Veterans have a right to use the symbols of their organization in their homes, on their property and in their club houses, just as I believe that Black Lives Matter and the Episcopal Church have the same right to display their flags and symbols on their property or in their homes and houses of worship.
However, in a nation as diverse as the United States our public seats of government should display symbols and flags, which represent only our common heritage as Americans.
As a Christian pastor for the past 33 years, it has been my life’s calling to proclaim the good news of Jesus to the world, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength, and you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.” (Matthew 22:35-39)
I believe that loving my neighbor involves recognizing that they have to same rights I have to appreciate their own heritage, to celebrate it in the appropriate places, and to refrain from displaying that heritage in a place that is a sacred place of justice for all people.
I believe there is some place in Marshall County where the Sons of Confederate Veterans can fly their flag and place their monument.
As a fourth generation native of Albertville who’s great-great grandfather was wounded in the Battle of Atlanta fighting against Gen. Sherman’s Army, I truly understand the importance of the monument to descendants of those who fought, and especially those who died in battle.
As an American, however, I believe that every seat of government, national, state, county or city should post only flags and monuments which represent the heritage of all who must enter to do business in these facilities, or must drive past these facilities which represent all who live in our community.
For just as the prophet Isaiah proclaimed to the people of Israel and Judea around 538 B.C. that, “the Temple should be a House of Prayer for all people,” so the courthouse in Albertville should be a house of justice for all people.
The Rev. Ben Alford