U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz announced the banning of Confederate flag imagery in a move akin to earlier prohibitions by the Navy and Marine Corps and, more recently, the Department of Defense.
“While the Confederate battle flag may be symbolic of different beliefs, it divides Americans and threatens our black shipmates,” he said in a July 17 statement. “There is no benefit from a display of divisive symbols in our disaggregated and geographically widely dispersed workforce, and I have determined that the Confederate battle flag is uniquely divisive.”
The decision comes after Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced on July 17 that Confederate flags would no longer be permitted at military bases and other installations within the jurisdiction of the Pentagon.
“We must always remain focused on what unifies us, our sworn oath to the Constitution, and our shared duty to defend the nation,” Esper wrote. “The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols.”
“In our military environment, such division clearly endangers loyalty, discipline, and morale; undermines unit cohesion and mission effectiveness; and marginalizes segments of our workforce,” Schultz said, explaining the decision.
Schultz said, effective immediately, displays or depictions of the Confederate flag are prohibited in all Coast Guard workplaces and operating facilities, as well as related public and common access areas. The ban extends to barracks, automobile bumper stickers, as well as clothing and other apparel.
Exceptions to the ban include state flags or state-issued license plates. Prohibited display of the Confederate flag also doesn’t include private spaces, such as inside family housing.
“It also does not apply to displays or depictions where the flag is only an incidental or minor component, such as in works of art, or in educational or historical displays,” Schultz said.
Schultz earlier resisted banning the Confederate flag, although he said in March that Coast Guard commanders had the leeway to take action “if it’s revealed and it’s offensive to somebody.”
“Every situation on a Coast Guard facility that involves a Confederate flag, or any hate symbol, will be investigated. It will be immediately removed,” he said, according to Homeland Security Today.
“It’s clearly seen by many as a hate symbol. What we have to figure out is where do you want to position the Coast Guard on what could be a very interesting conversation and battle of First Amendment right to constitutionality,” Schultz said in early July.
President Donald Trump, a Republican, has opposed some rules against flying the Confederate flag. Trump said this week that he believes displaying the flag is a matter of free speech.
The Marine Corps banned Confederate flags on its installations in June, as a symbol that “has all too often been co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups whose divisive beliefs have no place in our Corps” and “presents a threat to our core values, unit cohesion, security, and good order and discipline.”
The Navy announced days later that it, too, would ban the Confederate battle flag from all public spaces and work areas aboard Navy installations, ships, aircraft, and submarines.