FRANKLIN, Tenn. — The Sons of Confederate Veterans on Tuesday criticized a mayor who reportedly didn’t want the Confederate flag flown during an anniversary ceremony of a Civil War battle, and another group has announced plans to file suit.

SURVEY: Should The Confederate Flag Be Allowed To Fly At The Battle Of Franklin Commemoration?

Franklin Mayor Tom Miller said the Confederate flag is an anathema to some and didn’t want the flag at the upcoming Battle of Franklin commemoration, The Tennessean reported in a story posted on its Web site Tuesday.

But a city spokeswoman later claimed the mayor was misunderstood and that he only wanted to keep the flag from being displayed on a flagpole in the middle of the city square.

The Battle of Franklin on Nov. 30, 1864, is considered one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Thousands of soldiers died when the Confederate Army of Tennessee attacked Union lines on the outskirts of Nashville.

City spokeswoman Monique McCullough said the plan was to have an individual hold the Confederate flag, but Miller said he didn’t want it flown high on the flagpole. Miller did not return calls for comment on Tuesday.

"He was concerned all the attention would be paid to the Confederate flag," McCullough said. "He certainly didn’t ban the flag from being flown. That’s a First Amendment right."

McCullough said the city wants the ceremony to reflect the historic importance of the battle as a precursor to the end of fighting between the Confederate and Union forces.

"He wanted to make sure that both flags would be shown," she said.

Chris Sullivan, commander in chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, first said after hearing the mayor’s reported comments that he thought the mayor wanted to sanitize history.

"The Confederate flag is an important reminder to Southerners who only want to honor their ancestors," Sullivan said. "We find Mr. Miller’s lack of understanding and willful disregard of the opinions of others insulting."

But after hearing of the city’s later effort to clarify the mayor’s remarks, Sullivan said "if they are saying they will allow the Confederate flag to be a part of the program, that would certainly mitigate our concerns."

On Wednesday, the Tennessee League of the South announced in a press release "its intentions to file a federal ‘First Amendment’ lawsuit against the city of Franklin, Tenn. if Mayor Tom Miller and Police Chief Jackie Moore should pursue their proposed course of denying the presence of Confederate symbols at the Nov. 30 ceremony commemorating the Battle of Franklin."

League Chariman David O. Jones said, "It is exactly this type of oppression from elected and appointed public officials which must be exposed and opposed. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was penned by a southerner. It was southerners who fought for its inclusion in the Constitution and it appears that Southerners must continue to fight for its application."

The commemoration in Franklin’s square will be the first time this event has been held, McCullough said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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