North Carolina pastor flies Christian flag above American flag, encourages others to do the same

Pastor Rit Varriale knows a thing or two about America. He knows that it exists, he knows that a lot of Christians live within its borders and he knows that, now that marriage equality is the law of the land, all of those Christians are going to be forced to gay marry each other. Or something.

Varriale also knows that this affront to religious liberty will not stand, and so he has erected a flag pole in front of his church and flown the Christian flag above the American flag, encouraging other like-minded pastors to do the same.

Setting aside for the moment that this is technically illegal, as the Flag Code stipulates that no flag is to be flown above the American flag (an arrangement that Varriale has described as “completely improper“), Varriale’s justification for doing so is absurd. As he explained in a YouTube video for his new organization, God Before Government:

As he explained, the positioning of the flags serves as “a symbol that we’ll serve God before we serve Government, especially a government that tries to coerce us to violate our commitments to God.” As he continued, it only makes sense to keep the Christian flag over the American flag because our pledge of allegiance says “One nation — what? — under God.”

The Christian flag flying over the American flag, via WBTV

The Christian flag flying over the American flag, via WBTV

Of course, no one is forcing Pastor Varriale to violate his religious beliefs by presiding over a gay wedding. And, of course, our national motto — while not carrying anything resembling the force of law — has only included reference to God since 1954. As in, when Frances Bellamy wrote the original in 1892, he didn’t consider it at all religious.

Varriale’s protest is but the latest in the growing movement among Evangelical Christians to protest national marriage equality with the equivalent of what Daniel Dennett calls the Lucille Argument. If the government passes a law or issues a court ruling that I don’t like, I don’t get to say “Lucille says you’re wrong. Who’s Lucille, you ask? She’s my friend. She’s always right.” Yet replace “Lucille” with “God,” and all of a sudden it’s an argument that we have to take seriously.

Pastor Rit Varriale is more than welcome to disagree with the Supreme Court, and he’s more than welcome to refuse to preside over religious ceremonies involving gay couples. What he isn’t allowed to do is interfere in the government’s secular state interest in ensuring equal protection under the law for same-sex couples who want in on the rights that come with marriage.

And, again, he’s also not allowed to fly the American flag lower than any other flag. A former Army Ranger such as himself should know as much.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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