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Court Endorses Law Protecting Confederate Statues

Removal requires approval of Legislature
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 22, 2021 7:05 PM CDT
South Carolina Law Protecting Confederate Monuments Stands
Cameron Maynard stands at attention by the monument to Confederate soldiers at the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, S.C., in 2017.   (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins, File)

(Newser) – The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a state law preventing anyone from moving a Confederate monument or changing the historical name of a street or building without the Legislature's permission is legal. But in the same ruling, the AP reports, the justices struck down a requirement that two-thirds of the General Assembly approve a move or name change. The unanimous decision keeps intact South Carolina's Heritage Act, which has stopped colleges and local governments from removing statues honoring Civil War soldiers or segregationists even as other areas of the South have taken them down.

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The law was passed in 2000 as part of a compromise to remove the Confederate flag from atop the Statehouse dome. The banner was moved to a pole on the Capitol lawn, where it flew until 2015, when lawmakers removed it after nine Black worshippers were killed in a racist massacre at a Charleston church. One of the people who sued lawmakers over the Heritage Act is the widow of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor at Emanuel AME church in Charleston who died in the attack. The law specifically protects monuments from 10 wars—from the Revolutionary War to the Persian Gulf War.

It also protects monuments honoring African Americans and Native Americans as well as a catchall phrase of "any historic figure or historic event." Jennifer Pinkney has pointed out that means she couldn't make changes to a monument to her late husband unveiled this year without asking lawmakers for permission. Days after the Confederate flag was removed in 2015, legislative leaders vowed they would not approve removing any other statues or renaming buildings under the Heritage Act and have kept their word. South Carolina Senate President Harvey Peeler said in a statement Wednesday that "the protections over all of our state's monuments and statues were ruled constitutional and they will remain in place."

(Read more Confederate statues stories.)

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