- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A Cullman attorney has sued Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley over his decision to remove four Confederate flags from a Confederate monument next to the state Capitol.

Attorney Melvin Hasting, who filed the suit Tuesday in Montgomery Circuit Court, said he is asking a judge to declare whether Bentley had the legal authority to remove the flags.

Hasting said he wonders whether Bentley overstepped his bounds last month by ordering the flags to be removed.

A national debate about the Confederate flag began last month after the June 17 fatal shooting of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Bentley received praise, and some criticism, for quickly removing the flags from the 88-foot-tall monument.

“None of this is just about the flag,” Hasting said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s about our history, our heritage and protecting it in the state of Alabama.”

A spokeswoman for Bentley did not respond to a request for comment. Bentley has previously said he checked with his staff to confirm his legal authority before removing the flags.

Hasting is also suing the Alabama Historical Commission for removing Confederate battle flag items from the state Capitol gift store.

Last week, Alabama Historical Commission acting Executive Director Lisa Jones said the commission decided to remove a small number of items from the Goat Hill Museum Store. The store on the first floor of the Capitol removed the items after the flags outside were taken down. The items were then transferred to Confederate Memorial Park, which is also managed by the commission.

Jones did not respond to a request for comment regarding the lawsuit.

Hasting, who said he campaigned for Bentley during the governor’s first gubernatorial campaign, said it’s “nothing personal.”

“He is a good man,” Hasting said. “He means well, but we’ve got to stop what’s going on.”

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