By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
County officials addressed a recent dispute regarding a presidential order to lower the Cooke County Courthouse flag in honor of shooting victims killed in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14.
The issue surfaced in the past week during a regular commissioners’ court meeting, and County Judge John Roane addressed it again Friday.
He explained that the order didn’t technically require county facilities to participate and that the gesture itself is empty and ill-suited.
“Lowering the flag isn’t enough,” he said.
President Barack Obama’s original order was issued Dec. 14, the day of a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, and included a mandate to fly flags at half-staff in federal buildings on Dec. 18, through sunset.
“As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia,” the order said.
In response to the order, Roane suggested a moment of silence rather than a directive to lower the flag, a gesture he said is generally reserved for soldiers slain in war, or for rescue officers killed in the line of duty.
He explained Friday that such a gesture applies less directly to the shooting victims in Connecticut — whose loss is an even greater tragedy, he conceded, but not one that matches the context of flag-lowering.
“Something needs to be done for those children, but it needs to be a meaningful memorial, not just lowering the flag,” Roane said Friday. “That’s not what it’s intended for, and this is no disrespect whatsoever to those children.”
He explained Friday that Obama’s order applied to federal buildings — not county facilities such as Cooke County Courthouse — and that in the legal course of order, only a state governor can mandate that county officials lower their flags.
He also said the United States Flag Code doesn’t mandate a half-staff lowering in regard of incidents such as the Connecticut shooting.
“Whenever you have a very emotional issue like this, and believe me, there’s people all over the county on both sides, there are those who don’t want to see the flag used that way because it means a lot to them,” he said. “There are so many ways of remembering these children, just plain and simple.”
Roane added that flag-lowering has become an automatic response to events that are not patriotic in nature, and the Connecticut incident is another example.
“It’s just a different issue,” he said. “It loses its meaning if you lower the flag every time a tragedy happens.”