The Spring Hill-based Major Nathaniel Cheairs Camp 2138 Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) has once again brought legal action against Williamson County in an effort to block the county’s removal of the Confederate flag from the county seal. This occurred after a vote by the Tennessee Historical Commission (THC) on the issue, which is required by law, had been delayed three times due to the showdown. However, the THC voted unanimously in April to allow the county to alter the portion of the seal that contains an image of a Confederate flag draped over a cannon because it didn’t apply to the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act.
The THC’s Heritage Protection Act, which was approved in 2013, was created with the goal of protecting Confederate monuments and symbols. The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act (THPA) states that it ensures “no memorial regarding a historic conflict, historic entity, historic event, historic figure, or historic organization that is, or is located on, public property, may be removed, renamed, relocated, altered, rededicated, or otherwise disturbed or altered.” However, the public entity “exercising control of a memorial may petition the commission for a waiver…A public entity shall petition the commission for a waiver prior to undertaking any action or transaction…that could foreseeably violate the restrictions imposed…”
In May 2022, the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a motion for “stay of effectiveness” asking that Williamson County be required to stop any movement toward redesigning the seal until after they completed their appeal process. Then in July, they made a Petition for Judicial Review in Maury County Court in response to the THC’s Declaratory Order.
Williamson County responded in mid-August. The county filed a Motion to Dismiss “for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and improper venue.” Williamson County argues the SCV’s filing of their petition was not in line with Tennessee Code Annotated 4-5-223, which would require the SCV’s petition in the contested case to be filed in Davidson County Chancery Court.
According to Dustin Koctar, who created the petition that got the whole project started in the first place, “the County’s motion to dismiss… states, “Section 4-5-223 requires any appeals of the Commission’s declaratory order to be reviewed in Davidson County.” On that basis, Williamson County has requested the Maury County Chancery Court to dismiss the action and transfer the Petition for Judicial Review to Davidson County Chancery Court, as required by the statute.”
The SCV, considering themselves the aggrieved party, states that they will be “irrevocably harmed if Williamson County were to be permitted to alter or amend its seal prior to the conclusion of judicial review by the courts of this state.”
While it may be a few months, or even a few years, Williamson County believes that this last court battle will ultimately win what has so far been a two-year plus old war between the two factions.