Pickens County, South Carolina sheriff refuses to lower US flag to honor Mandela

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Monday, December 9, 2013

File photo of the Pickens County Courthouse
Image: KudzuVine.

On Friday, the sheriff of Pickens County, South Carolina Rick Clark refused to lower the flag to honor Nelson Mandela after US President Barack Obama made an executive order that all US flags to be flown at half mast in honor of Mandela until sunset today.

On Friday, Clark posted to Facebook to explain his decision saying, "I usually don't post political items, but today is different. I received this notification today, 'As a mark of respect for the memory of Nelson Mandela, the President orders that the flag of the United States be flown at half-staff effective immediately until sunset, December 9, 2013' ".

He went on to say in the same post, "Nelson Mandela did great things for his country and was a brave man but he was not an AMERICAN!!! The flag should be lowered at our Embassy in S. Africa, but not here. Our flag is at half staff today for a Deputy in the low country who died going to help his fellow Deputy. He deserves the honor. I have ordered that the flag here at my office back up after tomorrow's mourning of Pearl Harbor Day!"

CNN affiliate WHNS quoted Clark as saying, "It's just my simple opinion that the flag should only be lowered to half-staff for Americans who sacrificed for their country. [...] I have no problem lowering it in South Africa in their country but not for our country. It should be the people who have sacrificed for our country."

According to Fox News, the US President cannot require US flag lowering at the local level. According to CNN in an article published yesterday, presidents generally restrict requests for lowering the flag to major national figures, US governors, and foreign dignitaries.

Presidents of the United States have previously ordered the flag lowered in honor of non-Americans including Pope John Paul II who died in 2005, King Hussein of Jordan who died in 1999, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who died in 1995, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat who died in 1981, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who died in 1965, and United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold who died in 1961. While President Obama expressed condolences regarding the death of Margaret Thatcher upon her death earlier this year, he did not issue an executive order that flags be lowered in her honour.