An Alabama attorney is suing Gov. Robert Bentley for issuing an order last month to remove four Confederate flags from the state Capitol grounds, AL.com reported.
The lawsuit, filed by Melvin Hasting in Montgomery County Circuit Court on Tuesday, alleges that the Republican governor “overstepped his authority” in ordering the flags to be taken down following last month’s shooting massacre in Charleston, South Carolina. That attack left nine African American parishioners dead at the historic Emanuel AME Church, where the victims had gathered for a Bible study session. Photographs show the admitted gunman, Dylann Roof, posing with the Confederate battle flag in pictures taken prior to the attack.
Unlike in South Carolina, however, which requires a two-thirds supermajority of both houses of the state legislature in order to make any changes to Civil War symbols, Alabama has no law prohibiting the removal of Confederate flags by executive order. On June 24 – one week after the Charleston shooting – Gov. Bentley ordered the removal of four flags that flew above a memorial honoring Civil War soldiers in front of the statehouse in Montgomery.
“This is the right thing to do,” Bentley told AL.com at the time. “We are facing some major issues in this state regarding the budget and other matters that we need to deal with. This had the potential to become a major distraction as we go forward. I have taxes to raise, we have work to do. And it was my decision that the flag needed to come down.”
Hasting, however, believes the governor’s action marked a violation of Alabama code, under which the Alabama Historical Commission has a duty to “promote and increase knowledge and understanding of the history of this State from the earliest time to the present, including the archaeological, Indian, Spanish, British, French, colonial, Confederate and American eras.” He asked the court for a preliminary injunction to settle the question over the powers of the Historical Commission and the governor, and for the Confederate flags to be returned to the memorial in their original condition.