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Funding threatened over NC fire department’s Confederate flag

With a rally scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday) protesting a version of the Confederate Flag that has flown over the Uwharrie Volunteer Fire Department in Troy, North Carolina, Montgomery County commissioners have notified the department that its funding will be restricted. The commissioners sent a letter in July (see below) requesting the flag be removed.

(Thanks to Doug Walton for alerting to this story.)

Bruce Henderson, The Charlotte Observer:

Debate over the Uwharrie Volunteer Fire Department’s flag has simmered for months but complaints about it go back years, according to news accounts. The department, organized as a nonprofit corporation in 1983, occupies a privately-owned building but gets county money.

Uwharrie fire officials couldn’t be reached. The department has said it relies heavily on donations from a community that supports the flags.

“We feel that we would not continue to receive the financial support needed to meet our expenses if we remove our flags,” the department wrote, the Montgomery Herald reported. “In our opinion, the protection of life and property outweighs the few people that choose to be offended and have a perverted view of a symbol that is part of our community’s history and heritage.”

Read entire article

The meme above is from the department’s Facebook page where comments are largely in support of the fire department’s use of the flag.

From letter this week from commissioners to Uwharrie VFD:

Please be advised that until the Uwharrie Volunteer Fire Department removes the Confederate flag from the fire station property, the county will be limiting access to funds to permit only the fueling and maintenance of the county owned trucks currently in possession of the department. Robbie Smith, Emergency Management Director, will be responsible for the coordination, oversight and payment for any servicing of the trucks and for fuel reimbursement requests.

July letter from commissioners to Uwharrie VFD:

Dear Uwharrie Fire Volunteer:

The Montgomery County Board of Commissioners respectfully asks the volunteers of the Uwharrie Fire Department to remove the Confederate flag from the building for which they are de facto stewards. We ask you to do so out of respect for the institution you have so admirably volunteered to serve.

The Confederate flag may be a symbol of history for some members of the Department; it may be a signal of defiance against political correctness for others; and for yet still other members of the Department the flag’s existence may simply be an unwelcomed nuisance. Regardless of those individual opinions, or the majorities which may be formed in a headcount vote, the flag simply does not belong atop a building dedicated to fire service.

In voting to send this letter to individual members of the Uwharrie Fire Department, each County Commissioner was asked to publically vote for or against the request. Were we voting for or against supporting a flag or heritage? No, we were not. We were voting a position that community spaces, like tax-exempt volunteer firehouses, should not be personal property and should not be cloaked with individual opinions. Aside from the flags of our nation and state, no other political, social, or cultural ornamentation should be visible.

As your Commissioners, financial supporters, and friends, we now ask you to make that same decision and to keep the Department and its resources free from individual expression. Let the flag fly next door, down the street, decorated on the back of a volunteer’s shirt responding to a fire call, or on the bumper of the personal truck coming to a fire meeting, but please do not let those personal beliefs mark either the building or the institution of volunteer fire service to which you serve.

If you, as members of the Uwharrie Volunteer Fire Department, choose collectively not to remove the flag then it cannot be assumed that the matter will simply quiet down, as it has done in the past. Personal expression, and the right to do so, has never been more supported in this Country; people just want “public” spaces to be unadorned of derisive elements.

Let us agree that the Uwharrie Volunteer Fire Department, as an organization, is a non-restrictive volunteer institution dedicated to providing fire and emergency services to the people of the district and that, as a building, should reflect that non-discriminatory mission and proudly fly only the flags of our nation and our state as symbols of what we value most. Let the members express themselves, not the organization.

We kindly ask for a response back from the Department.

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