Controversial Flag Sparks Controversy At MTSU - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Controversial Flag Sparks Controversy At MTSU

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by Chris Cannon

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - A flag that is made up of rainbow stripes and stars has created a controversy at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.

The flag is part of a display put together by MT Lambda, MTSU's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans gender student organization.

Complaints about the flag, fashioned to resemble the American flag, came into a dean's office at the University three days after the group installed the display.

"It's really caught us by surprise that this flag has caused so much controversy, because in essence it's not an American flag, it's symbolic of that," explained Joshua Rigsby, the group's president.

Some people feel the flag is disrespectful.

"This is just un-American and against the law. They removed red white and blue replaced with the rainbow," a NewsChannel 5 viewer wrote in an e-mail.

Rigsby said the flag design has been around for decades, and he believes it does not break any laws.

"Desecrating an American flag would entail ripping, or shredding, or burning an actual 13 red and white strip American flag, and that's not what this is," Rigsby said.

Adding to the group's confusion, the flag is not new at MTSU.

"We've used this flag at many other events. We walk in homecoming with this flag every year and it is not something new," Rigsby said.

When complaints about the flag were brought to the Dean's attention, university leaders not only contacted MTSU counsel, but also the Tennessee Attorney General's office.

"And their advice to us, since they are a registered student organization, and that this is constitutionally protected free speech, that their right of expression is protected," according to university spokesman Andrew Oppmann.

The controversy sparked debate among students on the MTSU campus Friday evening. Several students sat in a group and talked about the flag issue.

"It's kind of like a new kind of America that people are trying to present. I don't agree with it, but America's always been like that," said MTSU freshman Laura Short. "I don't agree with it because I have my own Christian views, but I think in a sense, I mean it's not like you could go around hanging a flag that has a cross on it in the library."

"If it's not the actual American flag, I think it's ok, because you know,' said freshman Ashlind Keomuangtai.

"I see it as taking two artistic representations of two different things, government and gay rights, and combining them into one flag," freshman Payton Qualls said.

Not only does October mark the 25th anniversary of MT Lambda, it is also national LGBT history month.


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