North Carolina pastor flies Christian flag above American flag, encourages others to do the same

Pastor Rit Varriale knows a thing or two about America. He knows that it exists, he knows that a lot of Christians live within its borders and he knows that, now that marriage equality is the law of the land, all of those Christians are going to be forced to gay marry each other. Or something.

Varriale also knows that this affront to religious liberty will not stand, and so he has erected a flag pole in front of his church and flown the Christian flag above the American flag, encouraging other like-minded pastors to do the same.

Setting aside for the moment that this is technically illegal, as the Flag Code stipulates that no flag is to be flown above the American flag (an arrangement that Varriale has described as “completely improper“), Varriale’s justification for doing so is absurd. As he explained in a YouTube video for his new organization, God Before Government:

As he explained, the positioning of the flags serves as “a symbol that we’ll serve God before we serve Government, especially a government that tries to coerce us to violate our commitments to God.” As he continued, it only makes sense to keep the Christian flag over the American flag because our pledge of allegiance says “One nation — what? — under God.”

The Christian flag flying over the American flag, via WBTV

The Christian flag flying over the American flag, via WBTV

Of course, no one is forcing Pastor Varriale to violate his religious beliefs by presiding over a gay wedding. And, of course, our national motto — while not carrying anything resembling the force of law — has only included reference to God since 1954. As in, when Frances Bellamy wrote the original in 1892, he didn’t consider it at all religious.

Varriale’s protest is but the latest in the growing movement among Evangelical Christians to protest national marriage equality with the equivalent of what Daniel Dennett calls the Lucille Argument. If the government passes a law or issues a court ruling that I don’t like, I don’t get to say “Lucille says you’re wrong. Who’s Lucille, you ask? She’s my friend. She’s always right.” Yet replace “Lucille” with “God,” and all of a sudden it’s an argument that we have to take seriously.

Pastor Rit Varriale is more than welcome to disagree with the Supreme Court, and he’s more than welcome to refuse to preside over religious ceremonies involving gay couples. What he isn’t allowed to do is interfere in the government’s secular state interest in ensuring equal protection under the law for same-sex couples who want in on the rights that come with marriage.

And, again, he’s also not allowed to fly the American flag lower than any other flag. A former Army Ranger such as himself should know as much.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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37 Responses to “North Carolina pastor flies Christian flag above American flag, encourages others to do the same”

  1. terry.hankinson says:


  2. UncleBucky says:

    All Preachers are nuts. There is no sky god.

  3. Krimson says:

    That’s a good discussion, perhaps for a later time: is following the Flag Code more patriotic than wearing Flag “regalia”??? I suppose it depends on how tacky you make the “regalia” (see Palin)??? Ha! Cheers!

  4. Sally says:

    So do you not obey traffic laws? Or pay your taxes? Do you go around breaking other laws that might not jibe with Leviticus? Two wives OK with you? Stoning? Seriously, how do you decide how to live in a civilized society and still figure that the rewritten, edited book is paramount over the US Code of Laws?

  5. Sally says:

    Which is why you see people like Sarah Palin using the flag as a coat, wearing it on her feet, and even signing her name on it in years past. If we truly respected the symbol, there would be no flag jewelry, shoes, or clothing at all. But we don’t. Or the people who profess to be the best patriots, don’t. I see tons of tattered unlit flags around my town…and often these are the people with the biggest Nativity scenes on their lawns…I really love the plastic blowup ones, don’t you? Makes the Virgin birth seem so real.

  6. Brian Stump says:

    Treasonous and contrary to biblical teachings. What is this guy thinking?

  7. Krimson says:

    You prompted me to do some more reading… Indeed, certain sections of the Flag Code have been struck down and now there are no (or few) Federal penalties for desecrating the Flag.

    But for the purposes of this discussion, since there is no civil or criminal penalty (that I know of) for violating the standard that the US Flag should fly on top, ours is a moot discussion… Thanks!

  8. Denver Catboy says:

    And if you are going to stoop to personal attacks, well, I have to share a nice mental image of you.

    A fly buzzes into one of your ears. All around can hear the buzzing, now taking on the quality of a fly in an empty cavern. It emerges from one nostril, does a loop-de-loop, then buzzes right into the other. The sound continues, right until it exits your other ear. That fly’s journey was quite easy, thanks to the big empty space between your ears. :)

  9. Denver Catboy says:

    You may want to reread your bible. I’m thinking Mark 12:17 may have a word or two for you.

    PS: What you’re advocating here is sedition against the United States. If you don’t like the law here, get out. That’s what your type hollered at the Liberals when you were in power, but in this case, the alternative is a trial for treason. I suggest you leave and renounce your citizenship while you still can. :)

  10. Leron says:

    He should be arrested for sedition, charged as such, and sentenced to hard labor in Guantanamo with those there of like beliefs.

  11. crazymonkeylady says:

    Ok,then. How about you pay taxes on your church since you feel left out!

  12. Butch1 says:

    This sounds like war to me.

  13. Butch1 says:

    What country did you say you lived in, Gary? It wasn’t the United Theocratic States of America was it?

  14. Butch1 says:

    Pulling down our flag and hoisting another during a time of war could amount to a treasonous act if we wanted to push it for political purposes. (technically) If you wanted to scare them a little. It is an act of “terrorism.” ;-)

  15. Butch1 says:

    Perhaps we should bring back the “hungry lions” or the ever popular crucifixions. They seem to love playing the victims so much. ;-)

  16. Butch1 says:

    I’m thinking it’s time to start pulling the tax-exempt status on these bumpkins. These are “terrorists” breaking the law by pulling down the American flag and flying another type of flag over this country. ;-) That’s a take over in my book and they need to be read charges of treason. Perhaps that would shake them up on the severity of the situation.

  17. Butch1 says:

    Someone needs to be arrested and soon for having a “holy-hissy fit.” Perhaps a few nights in jail playing the victim will give this pathetic-preacher a chance to pray. Perhaps he will fast as well; that usually helps them think more clearly. ;-)

  18. Master Shake says:

    Flag code is not law. It was found unconstitutional hence not law.

  19. uzza says:

    OK, I’ll testify, that it gives Al Queda aid, and comfort, and warm fuzzy feelings to see the USA disrespected like this. Who’ll be the other witness?

  20. Indigo says:

    There’s nut jobs and then there’s religious nut jobs. This one seems to have a foot in each camp.

  21. Rogue Smokey says:

    Constitution Article III Section 3: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

  22. Glen Thompson says:

    Enough already. Time to pay your fair share. Tax the hell out of them. And they sure don’t mind that the gay tax dollars help to pay for their services and, by that, I mean garbage removal and street cleaning.

  23. Nigel says:

    This will be interesting. Ask for tax exempt status and break the law.

  24. FLL says:

    The Flag Code is advisory because the penalty for failure to comply is not enforced. Ironically, it was the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled that prohibiting desecration of the U.S. flag conflicted with the First Amendment (United States v. Eichman 1990). Legally, this pastor is off the hook, but this is a great way for evangelical Christians to become an unpopular minority among their fellow Americans. There were similar complaints in ancient Rome. Many in ancient Rome resented the fact that Christians in Rome felt more loyalty toward their co-religionists in the rival Persian Empire than they did toward their non-Christian next-door neighbors in Rome. A cautionary tale of how not to make friends and influence people. Ahem.

  25. Krimson says:

    The Flag Code is indeed Law… But the penalties for violating the Law aren’t enforced…

  26. trinu says:

    He’s perfectly allowed to do so, because the Flag Code isn’t binding (disrespecting the flag is free speech) but of course it’s not patriotic.

  27. nicho says:

    If you’re committing treason — then, yes.

  28. nicho says:

    You seem to be confusing two things here, but then, of course you are because Christian. Christians — preaching nonsense since the year 300.

  29. nicho says:

    Christians don’t actually read the bible. They flip through the pages and pick out random passages that support whatever snake oil they’re selling today

  30. dommyluc says:

    …and the Lord sayeth unto to you, “Bloweth Me”.
    Yeah, I blasphemed. Deal with it, troll.

  31. cambridgemac says:

    I suspect these guys want to recreate the white resistance to de-segregation movement. That movement, abetted and supported by the Republican Party, increased the influence and strength of southern states – or at least coincided with an increase in such. Other factors, such as industrialization and scientific advances may not have occurred to the good pastor. Oh, and lying freely is as American as apple pie.

  32. Gary says:

    You are the one who is nuts.

  33. Gary says:

    That church is correct. I support what they are doing, and I hope to persuade more churches to do the same thing. God, not civil government, is the Lord of Christians.

  34. taxicolor says:

    This guy doesn’t strike me as a stupid man unlike some of his comrades. He must know that what he is saying about the Supreme Court’s ruling and how it will effect Christians and their churches is not true. Then what is their agenda? Why do they feel so free from Christian morality to be able to lie freely.

  35. TL Webb City says:

    It is about time. I’d rather no flags be on church property at all. But, if churches just feel compelled, then this is a good way to demonstrate the right priority.

  36. UncleBucky says:

    Hmph. “Preacher” Rit Varriale is nuts. Nuts, nuts, nuts. And would be a traitor, if he could…

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