- Advertisement -

The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that state law prohibiting anyone from moving a federal monument or changing the historic name of a street or building without permission from the Legislature is legal.

But in the same ruling, the judges rejected a requirement that two-thirds of the General Assembly must approve a move or name change.


The unanimous decision upheld South Carolina’s Heritage Act, which prohibited colleges and local governments from removing statues honoring Civil War soldiers or separatists, even in other areas of the South in the past. He was fired after protests over the killing of African American George Floyd. White police officer in Minnesota.

The law was passed in 2000 as part of a settlement to remove the Confederate flag from the top of the South Carolina Statehouse dome. The rebel banner was carried to a pole on the Capitol lawn, where it remained flying until 2015 when lawmakers removed it after nine Black church members were killed in a racist massacre at a Charleston church.

- Advertisement -

Confederate Robert E. Lee statue demolished in Virginia

One of the people suing lawmakers over the Heritage Act is the widow of State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, who was killed 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 catchy phrase “any historical person or historical event”.

Jennifer Pinckney has revealed that means she cannot make changes to her late husband’s memorial unveiled this year without permission from lawmakers.

His lawyer, State Sen. Gerald Malloy, called the ruling a victory because racists’ memorials are no longer protected by a two-thirds vote.

“The voice of the majority can now be heard as to which statues and names best reflect our values ​​and heritage. The road to justice is a long one that takes care. Today’s decision takes us forward on our journey, ” said the Democrats of Hartsville.

Days after the Confederate flag was removed in 2015, South Carolina’s legislative leaders vowed that they would not approve the removal of any other statues or renaming buildings under the Heritage Act, and they have kept their word.

South Carolina Senate President Harvey Peeler said in the summer of 2020 that “renaming a pile of bricks and mortar is at the bottom of my to-do list.”

He issued another statement on Wednesday: “The protection of all monuments and statues in our state was constitutional and will remain in place.”

House Speaker Jay Lucas said in 2015 that no other changes would be considered when he was the leader of the chamber. After Wednesday’s decision, he reiterated the same promise.

In 2021 lawmakers also refused to take the first steps toward requests to remove monuments such as Orangeburg, asking for the removal of a Confederate statue or renaming such as Clemson University, asking for a building to be renamed. It currently honors the late U.S. Sen. “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman, who took the lead. Violent racist mobs to stop blacks from voting.

Wednesday’s decision has been left undecided as to what might happen if the local government ignores the law. The Act did not include any special punishment for breaking it. Some Republicans have suggested removing local government or state funding of the school, but that idea has not gained traction in the legislature.

Charleston removed a statue of former US Vice President John Calhoun from Downtown Park in 2020, arguing that the city owned the statue and was on private land so it was not covered by the law. Calhoun was a fierce defender of slavery with a racist view that blacks were better owned by other people.

Most of Wednesday’s 22-page ruling traced the history of the 2000 agreement, praising it for quelling racial tensions in the state. It was signed by all the judges, including Chief Justice Don Beatty, who is only the second African American to head the High Court.

“As individual citizens – even justices – we can look back on these events and wish the negotiations were handled differently. The reality, however, is that the Heritage Act made the Confederate flag a South Carolina sovereignty. has been brought down from the top of the seat,” Associate Justice John Cannon Few wrote in the ruling.

The Justices also rejected the argument that the Heritage Act weakened what is called “Home Rule” in South Carolina and illegal the General Assembly in local matters.

“They argue that local governments are in a better position to act on this issue because they can be more responsive to the views of the community. That may be true, but Home Rule is not about who is better. possesses knowledge,” wrote Less.

Even though the judges found a two-thirds requirement to remove or move a monument illegal, they upheld a clause in the law that said if any part was deemed unconstitutional, the rest stood. Will happen.