By Jesse Wood
After a resident in Foscoe submitted a complaint, a postal carrier out of the Banner Elk office is no longer flying a small Confederate battle flag while delivering mail, according to U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Freda Sauter.
Charlie Handley, who lives in the Sleepy Hollow community off of N.C. 105, recently observed his mail carrier “sporting a rebel flag” on his Jeep Cherokee while on duty. He said he took offense to this as a taxpayer.
“I didn’t like the idea that somebody employed by the U.S. government is doing that during their work hours,” Handley said. “I have no problem if they are flying it from their own car or in front of their own house.”
(Handley clarified that statement after the story went to press: “I am very offended by the flag, but I will defend the right for someone to do it [display the flag on their own property]. This is America.”)
On Thursday morning, Sauter said that the carrier removed the 6”-x-8” flag from his vehicle and apologized to Handley. Sauter wouldn’t identify the employee but said that he was a full-time career employee.
U.S. Postal Service policy regarding employees driving their own vehicles states, according to Sauter, that employees must cover up any “political bumper stickers … during the time that the car is used for work.”
“Employees are prohibited from engaging in political activities while on duty, in any government office, while wearing an official uniform or while using government or personal vehicle,” Sauter said.
Tom Janke, a carrier in Asheville who supports the flying of the rebel flag, took exception to Handley’s viewpoint of taxpayer monies going to postal service workers.
Janke, who reached out to High Country Press, said, “We have always been told by our supervisors that if anybody throws that in your face or brings that point up, [respond by saying] ‘We are not funded by tax dollars.'”
Janke said that employees are paid by stamp sales and package delivery fees.
“Revenue of the postal service is generated across the window,” Janke said.
A crusade against the rebel flag was sparked after Dylan Roof murdered nine people in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina in June. Following the tragedy, a photo of Roof holding a gun and a rebel flag was unearthed on a white supremacy website.
Since then the Confederate flag has been removed from the South Carolina capitol’s grounds, where it flew for more than half of a century and was once considered a sacred cow among Democrats and Republicans looking for votes in the state.
It has also been a popular product online and in stores since discussion of the controversial flag took the nation by storm this summer, according to numerous national media reports.
Locally, the flag has been much more visible than in the past with motorists flying huge flags from their truck beds and from the stoops of their homes.
Across the street from the Cove Creek Store on U.S. 321, a person has been selling tie-dye shirts with the Confederate flag symbol and colors, and the Cove Creek Store along U.S. 321 now sells rebel flags and t-shirts, which state “Heritage not Hate.”