IN A CLOSE VOTE, HOUSE KEEPS SALUTE TO THE FLAG OF VIRGINIA

January 30, 2002

By a vote of 50-48, the Virginia House of Delegates voted yesterday to retain the recitation of Mrs. T.E. (Cassye) Gravely's Salute to the Flag of Virginia as part of its daily opening ritual.

Despite the vote, members of the Black Legislative Caucus say they will decline to participate in the 56-year-old salute because it was written by a Virginia member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. [See previous story.]

The Washington Post reported that Caucus Chairwoman Mary T. Christian called the narrow margin of defeat "closure." In her speech on the House floor opposing the salute, Christian accused her colleagues of not understanding what was at stake and claimed that the issue was not "...we versus they. It is not black versus white. It is not Republican versus Democrat. It is a response to human emotions."

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith countered that the salute should be judged by its content and not by the personal history of its author, citing racist comments made by magazine editor Francis Bellamy, who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America in 1892.

"If we are of a society where we must go back behind everything that was written, and go back behind every document, to determine its origins and the thoughts of the writer," Griffith said, "there are many things in our society that would have to be taken out of usage."

Sixteen Republicans (including Speaker S. Vance Wilkins, Jr.) broke ranks with their party and voted to abandon the salute. Of the 50 votes to retain the salute, only two were cast by Democrats.


A MESSAGE FROM THE VIRGINIA DIVISION PRESIDENT
ON THE FLAG SALUTE

[January 30, 2002]

Flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia     I salute the flag of Virginia, with reverence and patriotic devotion to the "Mother of States and Statesmen" which it represents - the "Old Dominion," where liberty and independence were born.


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