President Obama believes the Confederate flag “belongs in a museum,” the White House said Friday amid calls for it to be taken down, following a mass shooting in South Carolina. 

“The president has said before he believes the Confederate flag belongs in a museum, and that is still his position,” spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters aboard Air Force One. 

A mass shooting at a historic African-American church in Charleston, S.C., has renewed the debate over whether the Confederate battle flag should continue to fly in the state.

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Calling Wednesday’s killing of nine black church members in Charleston, S.C., a hate crime, the head of the NAACP says it’s not appropriate for South Carolina to keep flying the Confederate flag at its state house.

“The flag has to come down,” NAACP President Cornell Brooks told a crowd gathered for a midday news conference Friday…

“We say this not because we’re trying to sow division, but rather because we’re trying to sow unity — a unity of purpose, a unity of commitment, a unity of resolve — so that we confront the racism in our midst.

“And that means, certainly symbolically, we cannot have the Confederate flag waving in the state capitol.”

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The South Carolina Heritage Act of 2000 stipulated that the Confederate flag would be removed from the capitol dome itself, but would be flown nearby at the Confederate Soldiers’ Monument, on the Statehouse grounds. It’s literally locked into place—State Representative Leon Howard told TIME that that the flag is padlocked to the flagpole to prevent tampering or removal.

Because of the strong support for the Confederate flag among many South Carolina voters, some political scientists have said that advocating for flag removal is the equivalent of political suicide in the state—Republican Governor David Beasley lost his 1998 campaign for re-election partly because he wanted to take down the flag…

“Defenders of the flag are going to say, ‘if the flag had been taken down and put away, this senseless act would have happened anyway, this would have not deterred this young man from taking a gun and killing these people,’” he told TIME. But even though he’s less than optimistic, he thinks the massacre in Charleston has brought the legislature “closer to moving it than ever before.”

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You can debate whether the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism. But the one thing you can’t dispute: The Confederate flag was flown by traitors to the United States of America who slaughtered more than 110,000 U.S. soldiers…

Why would anyone display a flag that was flown by a nation that viewed the United States as its enemy?…

In 1861, [Alexander] Stephens explained to a cheering audience that the Confederacy was founded to expressly reject the proposition that men of all races were equal. Instead, Stephens stated, “The foundations of our new government are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.”

So if you are about to display the Confederate flag, please first think about that statement by the vice president of the Confederacy. Or kindly give some thought to the U.S. soldiers killed by people carrying that flag. Hopefully, that will move you to refrain from it.

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I believe that official displays of the flag should end, for two reasons that immediately come to mind. One admittedly sentimental reason is that the nationalist in me would much prefer that we celebrate the roughly 200,000 southerners, more than 90,000 of whom were black, who fought for the Union rather than those who fought against it, a point that Josh Gelernter raised several months ago. But the other reason is that the use of Confederate symbols has gone through a number of different phases since the end of the Civil War, and the revival of these symbols that began in the late 1940s was about more than paying tribute to the Confederate war dead

Granted, it could be that the Confederate battle flag has come to mean something entirely different in 2015 than it did in the mid-1950s, when it was closely tied to resistance to federal desegregation efforts. But is its value such that we ought to continue giving it quasi-official status, even when doing so alienates the descendants of enslaved southerners, who have just as much claim to deciding which symbols ought to represent southern heritage as the descendants of Confederate veterans? I don’t believe so. 

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If white Christians in South Carolina are looking for a way to live out their faith during this time of mourning — if they want to offer an expression of selfless Christian love that goes beyond words — they could remove a long-standing source of pain in the African-American community, and one that is implicated in this atrocity: the Confederate flag that flies in front of the statehouse. Not as an admission of defeat, or even a sign of cultural retreat. The flag should come down as act of Christian kindness

Christianity’s call to act with unselfish and humble compassion toward strangers is often a struggle against human nature. Usually human nature wins, and what’s true for ordinary mortals is doubly true for elected officials, who must answer to us. South Carolina Senator and Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham has admirably expressed openness to revisiting the debate over the flag. Plenty of others will resist, arguing that the flag did not cause the tragedy. They’re right about that. But for many, every day that it flies is a reminder of the hatred that did.

Elected officials shouldn’t let religion dictate their position on laws. But when a heinous crime occurs in a church that has been a citadel for African-American emancipation and equality, it shouldn’t be too much to ask of one of the most Christian states in the nation to offer a response that reflects charity and humility.

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The Confederate Battle Flag was the emblem of Jim Crow defiance to the civil rights movement, of the Dixiecrat opposition to integration, and of the domestic terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens’ Councils of our all too recent, all too awful history.

White Christians ought to think about what that flag says to our African-American brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in the aftermath of yet another act of white supremacist terrorism against them. The gospel frees us from scrapping for our “heritage” at the expense of others. As those in Christ, this descendant of Confederate veterans has more in common with a Nigerian Christian than I do with a non-Christian white Mississippian who knows the right use of “y’all” and how to make sweet tea…

The Apostle Paul says that we should not prize our freedom to the point of destroying those for whom Christ died. We should instead “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom. 14:19). The Confederate Battle Flag may mean many things, but with those things it represents a defiance against abolition and against civil rights. The symbol was used to enslave the little brothers and sisters of Jesus, to bomb little girls in church buildings, to terrorize preachers of the gospel and their families with burning crosses on front lawns by night.

That sort of symbolism is out of step with the justice of Jesus Christ. The cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire.

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The invocation of “states rights” among those waving the Confederate flag while fighting for the evils of slavery and segregation has been devastating to the cause of limited government.

Not only were the institutions themselves an affront to liberty, but in fighting to defeat the institutions, the federal government claimed more power. And to this day, when any conservative tries to make a principled argument in favor of returning more power to the states, they have to grapple with the fact that for many Americans, such arguments are tainted by their historical association with slavery and segregation.

The Confederacy was formed to preserve and expand the brutal institution of slavery, and then its proponents subsequently tried to disguise their motivations in lofty language about states’ rights…

To this day, any argument modern conservatives try to make about restrictions on federal power inevitably leads back to the question of whether the same principle of federal restraint should have allowed segregation to persist. Conservatives who try to defend the flag (or who are afraid to criticize it) are only reinforcing the perception that supporters of limited government don’t really care about the historical or modern day struggles of black Americans.

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“The Confederate Battle Flag represents all Southern, and even Northern, Confederates regardless of race or religion and is the symbol of less government, less taxes and the right of the people to govern themselves,” says Dixie Outfitters, a Virginia-based retailer of Confederate-themed merchandise…

In a 2014 poll for the State newspaper in Columbia, three out of four white South Carolina residents said the Confederate flag should keep flying outside the state house — compared to 61 percent of blacks who wanted to see it go.

In California, since January this year, the Confederate flag cannot be displayed by state authorities, under a law initiated by a black state legislator whose mother once came across the banner for sale in a state house gift shop.

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[T]his hateful man’s [Roof’s] use of a slogan is no proof that the slogan itself is hateful. Elected leaders make this distinction constantly when it comes to Islamic terrorism, after all: The teachings of Muhammad, the Koran, the black flag with the Shahada (the flag of ISIS) — they have been “hijacked” and “perverted.” Why hasn’t Dylann Roof merely “hijacked” or “perverted” the main symbol of the Confederacy?

To that the obvious answer would be, Because the flag in question is the symbol of a cause rooted in hatred and racial oppression. But it is exactly that point on which persons of good faith can — and do — disagree. One does not need to think the Civil War was the “War of Northern Aggression” to think that the “Blood-Stained Banner” represents something more than visceral racial hatred.

Yet much of the reason the Confederate flag is so contentious is because objections to it are not raised in good faith. Many opponents of Confederate symbols demonstrate not to promote the reduction of racial tensions and the advancement of a shared good, but out of a desire to impose their own moral outlook on dissenters — because it suits their present-day interests.

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The South had to rebuild — under military occupation — and it had to rebuild more than just its physical infrastructure. It had to reimagine itself. It ultimately did so for good and ill. The worst of that new South was obvious: the gradually tightening grip of a new and different era of racial oppression, one that culminated in Jim Crow, lynching, and systematic segregation. This is the side of history that is now taught clearly and unflinchingly — and should be taught. But that wasn’t the whole story, not by any means. The region also rebuilt by honoring its war dead and extolling a culture of military valor. Through this reverence for valor, the defeated South, ironically enough, soon supplied the newly reunified nation with many of its greatest warriors — men who were indispensable in preserving our democracy against the existential threats of fascism and communism. To this day, the South supplies more than its fair share of soldiers, men and women who lay down their lives to protect us from the deadly threat of jihad.

It is telling that the South’s chosen, enduring symbol of the Confederacy wasn’t the flag of the Confederate States of America — the slave state itself — but the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee’s army. Lee was the reluctant Confederate, the brilliant commander, the man who called slavery a “moral and political evil,” and the architect — by his example — of much of the reconciliation between North and South. His virtue grew in the retelling — and modern historians still argue about his true character — but the symbolism was clear. If the South was to rebuild, it would rebuild under Lee’s banner…

I no longer have a battle flag at my house. The American flag flies proudly from (by far) the tallest flagpole in the neighborhood — a gift from my father-in-law, raised when I was deployed. But we have a room in our home that honors my family’s history of service. On one side of a framed picture from my own time in Iraq is a painting from the Revolutionary War, on the other side is a picture tracing the history of the Confederate Army in the Civil War. It’s all a part of the complicated, messy picture of who I am — of who we are. Removing the Confederate flag from Confederate memorials doesn’t change that history, it merely helps shroud it in ignorance. The flag should stay.

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Let us suppose that ten years ago, opponents of the Confederate flag got everything they wanted: no more Confederate flag over state capitols, no more flags on the back of pickup trucks, a full ban on reruns of The Dukes of Hazzard. Does anyone believe that pressuring Southerners to give up a cultural icon with an accusation of racism would have improved racial relations? That racist banter and extremism on the Internet would have diminished?…

Too many liberals have become the hyperventilating soccer moms of the ’90s. Desperate to make sense of a tragedy, they’ve rooted through the shooter’s personal history for anything that would help explain it. Violent video games made perfect sense back then: the shooters were violent, they played violent video games, ergo the games made them violent and the games have to go. The same logic is being applied today: the shooter was racist, the Confederate flag is venerated by racists, flag has to go.

Ironically, the same individuals recoil in horror when prominent conservatives blame rap music for black criminality. At least conservative prudes are going off on lyrics explicitly promoting domestic abuse, drug use, and gang warfare. But the same individuals who see the nuance, artistic value, and culture behind “Cop Killer” seem incapable of extending the same benefit of the doubt to a flag millions died defending.

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Via RCP.