- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

The Supreme Court yesterday ended Patrick J. Griffin III's legal crusade to fly the Confederate battle flag any day of the year at a Civil War prison camp where 3,300 Southerners are buried.
The high court let stand rulings by two circuit courts upholding Department of Veterans Affairs regulations that allow the display of the Confederate flag only on Memorial Day and Confederate Memorial Day.
Without comment, the justices refused to hear Mr. Griffin's appeal from rejection by the 4th Circuit of his constitutional challenge to VA rules blocking efforts "to honor confederates as confederates" at Point Lookout Confederate Cemetery in Maryland.
In the other case, the federal circuit ended Mr. Griffin's challenge to broader regulations applicable at all 120 national cemeteries, which allow displays of flags that honor all deceased service members.
VA cemeteries treat the issue very much as they do foreign prisoners of war in U.S. cemeteries, allowing graves to be decorated with foreign flags only on special patriotic occasions or visits by relatives or foreign officials. Germany's current flag was flown at Fort Bliss, Texas, during a day of mourning Nov. 19, 2000, when German officials visited one of several U.S. cemeteries where German POWs are buried.
The graves at Point Lookout in St. Mary's County, one of seven VA-managed cemeteries solely for Confederate dead, are primarily for soldiers who died in the prison camp where the Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay.
U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson in Baltimore ruled for Mr. Griffin, saying government statements that the flag is a symbol of racial intolerance and should be censored was based on viewpoint. But that ruling was reversed on appeal.
Mr. Griffin, a past commander of Sons of Confederate Veterans, sought to display the Army of Northern Virginia battle flag, which is similar in appearance to the traditional battle flag.
"Maryland does not even have Confederate Memorial Day so, by federal regulation, the Confederate battle flag is prohibited from being displayed in a VA cemetery 364 days a year," a disappointed Mr. Griffin said after yesterday's decision.
"The rub at Point Lookout is that it's an all-Confederate cemetery; there are no other veterans buried there and we would like to display the battle flag in perpetuity, 24 hours, seven days a week," he said.
The Maryland general contractor said he hopes to bring a new legal challenge soon.
"I think the Veterans Administration policies are an egregious affront to the Constitution of the United States and I am bound and determined to have them changed," said Mr. Griffin, who claims ancestors on both sides of the Civil War.
In an unrelated matter, the high court rejected a plea to overturn Democratic fund-raiser Maria Hsia's conviction for filing false reports on more than $100,000 in illegal contributions in 1996.
Her case involved contributions for the re-election campaign of President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. The government said Buddhist monks and nuns were used as "straw contributors" to disguise illegal donations to the Clinton-Gore campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Miss Hsia claimed that prosecutors did not prove she knew the tactics were illegal, but the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said it was enough that she knew she caused inaccurate statements to be filed. Her sentence was 90 days of home confinement, 250 hours of community service, a $5,000 fine and three years of probation.


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