Judge to decide fight over rebel flags in cemetery

November 30, 2000
Allowing the Confederate flag tofly over the burial site of Confederate soldiers at a federally run cemetery in Maryland could be viewed as an endorsement of racial intolerance bythe U.S. government, the Justice Department argued today.
     The argument came during a hearing in U.S. District Court here in asuit brought by a Maryland man. The suit alleges that the federal government is violating constitutional rights to free speech by restrictingdisplay of the flag at Point Lookout Confederate Cemetery in St. Mary's County. The bodies of many of the several thousand Confederatesoldiers who died in a nearby prisoner-of-war camp are buried there in a mass grave.
     Point Lookout, on the tip of Southern Maryland where the Potomac River joins the Chesapeake Bay, was the site of the largest POW camp operated by either side during the Civil War in terms of the total number of prisoners who passed through during the war. More than 50,000 prisoners passed through the camp, and an estimated 4,000 of them died under abysmal conditions of disease, hunger and exposure to cold and heat.
     "This is a cemetery where Confederate dead lie," said MichaelWright, an attorney for Patrick J. Griffin III, a Montgomery County man descended from a prisoner who was held at Point Lookout. "This is theirflag."