The U.S. flag at the White House and on other government buildings throughout the land is flying mid-pole in honor of the death of Nelson Mandela, but not in South Carolina. A South Carolina sheriff has defied President Barack Obama's orders to lower the flag at half staff in honor of the passing of Nelson Mandela.
On Friday, Dec. 6, the day after the death of the 95-year-old freedom fighter, out of respect for a "close friend" to the United States, the president signed a proclamation directing all flags at government entities to be lowered at half staff until sunset on Monday, Dec. 9 as follows:
"As a mark of respect for the memory of Nelson Mandela, by the authority vested in me as president of the United States by the Constitution and 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 and throughout the United States and its territories and possessions until sunset, Dec. 9, 2013. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations."
Taking a political stance, Rick Clark, sheriff of Pickens County, said lowering the U.S. flag to half-staff should be reserved for U.S. citizens only, reports www.GreenvilleOnline.com. Clark made national news after posting a comment on Facebook saying the flag at the U.S. Embassy in South Africa should be lowered for Mandela, but because he was not American, he would lower the flags in his area.
Clark Posted a statement on Facebook that set off a firsestorm of controversy:
"Nelson Mandela did great things his country and as a brave man, but he was not AMERICAN!! The flag should be lowered at the S. African Embassy.
Regardless of Mandela's colossal contribution to humanity, the fact that he was not a U.S. citizen and a misunderstanding of when the proclamation is appropriate are the reasons the sheriff gave for his refusal to cooperate.
"The flag at half-staff is for Americans' ultimate sacrifice for our country," Clark said. "We should never stray away from that."
Not only has the Greenville, SC sheriff violated the highest authority in the land, but also his justification for resisting the order is an incorrect interpretation of the basis for the act.
The U.S. flag is generally flown at half staff during a national time of mourning but there are exceptions.
"The president may order the flag to be flown at half-staff to mark the death of other officials, former officials, or foreign dignitaries. In addition to these occasions, the president may order half-staff display of the flag after other tragic events." (Source: www.va.gov)
Yesterday on Facebook Clark expressed the desire to get past the controversy over his decision and encouraged citizens to learn more abut Mandela's life and continue his legacy through public service:
"Well the news/Facebook cycle has run its course. Time to move onto the next subject because I have work to do for my community and need to devote my time elsewhere. Thank you for your support and comments. I urge you to read about President Mandela over the next few days of mourning and be inspired for public service for your community and the nation as he was. It Pearl Harbor Day and thank a veteran today if you can."
There is no legal recourse for Clark's decision.
The federal flag code “does not prescribe any penalties for non-compliance nor does it include enforcement provisions” and “functions simply as a guide to be voluntarily followed by civilians and civilian groups,” according to a U.S. congressional report commissioned by the U.S. Senate.
President George W. Bush order the flags to be flown at half staff when Pope Jon Paul II died in 2005.