Dixie flag tag yields firing, suit
Therapist, former employer battle over ‘symbol of hate’ on bumper
By Lawrence Buser (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
A marriage and family therapist from Olive Branch who considers the Confederate battle flag “a venerated object” says he was illegally fired for refusing to remove his special Mississippi license tag bearing the flag logo of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
His former employer, Compass Intervention Center on Lowrance near Hacks Cross Road, says it only asked Adrian Paul McLaren, not to park in a way that would make another Confederate flag on his front bumper visible to guests.
The Circuit Court suit filed Tuesday asks for up to $500,000 and attorneys fees.
McLaren said in the suit that officials at the residential adolescent treatment center began making the parking request in 2006 and that he spent 20 minutes explaining the history, his personal beliefs and Christian aspects about Confederate symbolism.
He said that after an ongoing series of corrective action notices from his employer, McLaren began parking head-in to comply with the request to hide the front tag from view in the parking lot.
The company, however, then began to complain about his Mississippi-issued license plate on the rear of the car that also displayed the Confederate battle flag logo of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, McLaren said in the suit.
He said he was fired in October last year when he refused to remove the tag.
In correspondence McLaren filed with his lawsuit, Compass Intervention indicated it was concerned that its many inner-city, low-income residents and visitors might be offended or “incorrectly perceive your tag as a political symbol of hate.”
“While Compass Intervention Center acknowledges your right to place such an item on your vehicle, we do ask that you exercise restraint and consideration for the residents at our facility,” CEO Nashon McPherson said in a letter last year.
The company said its request was not unreasonable and denied that it ever asked him to remove his license plate.
In August, a mistrial was declared in a Knoxville teen’s free-speech lawsuit over a dress code in Anderson County that banned him from wearing Confederate flag on his clothing.