Employer takes down Blue Star mom's flag; Update: Hospital changes its mind; Update: No one said anything about size

We’re getting a lot of e-mail on this story, and it’s not hard to see why.  Kindred Hospital in Mansfield, Texas took down an American flag after getting complaints from Debbie McLucas’ co-workers and patients, who thought the display of the flag was offensive.  McLucas, whose daughter is serving in Iraq, wonders whether her daughter has risked her life for nothing:

When McLucas came to work Friday, her boss told her another supervisor had found her flag offensive. “I was just totally speechless. I was like, ‘You’re kidding me,'” McLucas said.

McLucas’ husband and sons are former military men. Her daughter is currently serving in Iraq as a combat medic.

Stifling a cry, McLucas said, “I just wonder if all those young men and women over there are really doing this for nothing.”

McLucas said the supervisor who complained has been in the United States for 14 years and is formerly from Africa. McLucas said the supervisor took down Debbie’s flag herself.

“The flag and the pole had been placed on the floor,” McLucas said. But McLucas also said hospital higher ups had told her some patients’ families and visitors had also complained.

“I was told it wouldn’t matter if it was only one person,” she said. “It would have to come down.”

In one very limited sense. McLucas makes the wrong argument.  The property belongs to her employer, not herself, and they have the right to set the conditions of the workplace, within the safety regulations of the local, state, and federal laws.  Technically, she doesn’t have the right to display the flag at her workstation, and the large flag she displays for the camera might have provided a basis for complaint on limited space or other considerations.

However, according to McLucas, that wasn’t the reason they took down her flag.  They removed it because the American flag offended people.  What about the flag offended them?  If the flag offensed them at McLucas’ desk, why doesn’t the flag outside the hospital offend them, too, which the hospital said would remain?  If it was a Pittsburgh Steelers flag in this Dallas suburb, I could understand it, but the American flag is the symbol of the nation in which these people choose to live.

The notion that the American flag would give such offense that one single complaint about it would prompt the hospital to remove it is patently absurd, and one suspects that Kindred lacks an HR director with sufficient testicular fortitude to tell the supervisor involved to pay more attention to his work than McLucas’ flag.

Watch the video at the link.

Update: Blue star, not Gold.  My apologies.

Update II: Via College Politico’s Twitter feed, it appears that Kindred has had a change of heart (same link as above):

Wednesday morning, however, our story received nationwide attention.  We have received dozens of emails and comments from people who had something to say about it.  And a receptionist at Kindred’s headquarters told us they received many phone calls.

Then, late Wednesday morning, Kindred posted on its website a statement about the incident.  It reads, in part:  “The disagreement was over the size of the flag and not what it symbolized. We have invited the employee to put the flag back up.”

Well, if size was the problem, why are they now not concerned about it?  I think that if Kindred had told her to use a smaller flag, she would have had no problem in complying.  Looks like Kindred wants to apply some rapid healing to their collective rear end after having it kicked all over the media today.  Anyway, they came to the right decision … eventually.

Update III: The CBS station has updated its story again, and McLucas says the hospital’s CEO called her personally to apologize.  However, she also says that no one told her that the size of the flag was the problem:

But she says when she was first told the flag had to go, nobody mentioned anything about its size.

“At no point was I afforded the opportunity — [no one said,] ‘Hey Deb, could you get a one and a half by three and a half and hang it instead of hanging this three by five?'” McLucas said.

I’d be a lot more impressed if Kindred had just admitted, “One of our supervisors and one of our managers screwed up.  Of course the American flag is not offensive, and we apologize to Mrs. McLucas for the error.”  That would have done wonders for their credibility.