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Historic Gettysburg seminary bans Confederate flags

Written by Chris Cappella, The Evening Sun | Jun 29, 2015 3:08 PM
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Photo by Clare Becker -- The Evening Sun

Jeff Cheeks, of Gettysburg, center right, buttons his coat as he portrays Gen. Richard S. Ewell of the 2nd Corps on June 28, 2015. Cheeks and the other re-enactors with him are members of the American Living History Education Society. In reference to the Confederate flag controversy, Cheeks said helping visitors learn about history was his priority. "We're here to represent history. To honor those guys is more important than flying that flag."

Administration rewrites its policy to stop using symbols of hate speech and racism

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Photo by Clare Becker -- The Evening Sun

Michael Smith and his wife, Diane Smith, relax on a bench outside of the Seminary Ridge Museum on Sunday in Gettysburg.

In the wake of several Gettysburg-area stores making announcements on if they'll continue to sell Confederate flag-related merchandise, the Lutheran Theological Seminary is making its stand. 

Saturday, the day before a Living History event was slated to take place on the seminary's campus, the administration announced it would be banning symbols of hate speech and racism on seminary grounds, said the Rev. John Spangler, executive assistant to the president for communication and planning. 

The ban prohibits the display of the flag or flags associated with the Confederate States of America, Spangler said. 

"The subsequent use by other groups have made this impossible to maintain the symbol of what the flag stands for," he said. 

The seminary still did host re-enactors from the American Living History Education Society Sunday, but without the Confederate flag, Spangler said. The re-enactment took place to depict scenes from the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Many of the re-enactors did not know about the ban until getting there and most were not happy, Spangler said.

Seminary administrators started working on rewriting their policies about two weeks ago.

"With the events in Charleston we just felt there was no way in keeping ambiguous, proper context," he said. 

The seminary administration had considered revising the policy a year earlier, Spangler said, after a supremacy group traveled to the re-enactment last year. Their intentions were unknown and ultimately the group caused no trouble, but the group caused an uneasiness at the administration level, he said.

Spangler said he has not talked to residents or reenactors, but has monitored social media reaction from the ban, he said. He said he thinks there has been an overall approval of the ban, but those who have disapproved have voiced their opinions loudly 

A Facebook group titled "Boycott the Seminary Ridge Museum in Gettysburg" has surfaced. but it is unknown who created it and is running the page, Spangler said. As of Sunday evening, the page had 348 likes. 

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Photo by Clare Becker -- The Evening Sun

Re-enactor Tristan Dennison plays the fiddler and chats with other re-enactors and visitors at the Seminary Ridge Living History event on June 28, 2015. Dennison said he and other re-enactors from Moorefield, West Virginia, will be staying all week for the 152nd anniversary activities. Dennison was portraying a soldier from the 7th West Virginia Co. I.

The museum will continue to have displays of the Confederate flag because of the historical context of the museum.

"There's been no change in the exhibit," Spangler said. "Nothing has been moved, changed, removed or manipulated. A museum is proper historical context."

A spokesperson from the American Living History Education Society declined to comment on the matter, saying they have to defer to the seminary's policy.


This article comes to us through a partnership between The Evening Sun and WITF.

Published in Adams County, News

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