SOUTH CAROLINA: Confederate Flags Would Be Barred From License Plates Under Democratic Leader’s Bill

COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s Democratic House leader hopes to end the 15-year run of a specialty license plate whose emblem he says is a painful reminder of the state’s racist past.

A bill sponsored by House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford would bar the state from issuing any more tags bearing the Sons of Confederate Veterans seal, which is the square Confederate battle flag, framed by the group’s name and founding year.

The proposal essentially makes the group’s plate illegal for road use after two years, since the 788 currently affixed to vehicles — representing just 0.04 percent of all tags issued — couldn’t be renewed.

“A Confederate flag is no longer appropriate on a license tag in South Carolina and, if it is, then what group may come next? Is a group going to use a swastika? Is that OK?” Rutherford said. “We know better, and we should simply fix it.”

The Sons of Confederate Veterans plate is among more than 150 specialty tags South Carolina drivers can choose from, for a fee. About two-thirds of its $30 biennial cost supports the organization’s South Carolina chapters, which amounts to just over $15,000 total every two years based on the latest data from the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

The number of Sons of Confederate Veterans tags on the road has dropped by roughly a quarter since 2015, when a white supremacist gunned down nine Black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston following a Bible study.

The massacre resulted in the state Legislature voting to remove the battle flag from its 30-foot perch beside a Confederate soldiers’ monument on the Statehouse’s front lawn and send it to the state’s military history museum.

“A lot of people are afraid to put it on their car right now,” DMV Director Kevin Shwedo told The Post and Courier.

Jamie Graham, South Carolina’s Sons of Confederate Veterans commander, did not return a call seeking comment. But the group’s national commander in chief said displaying the plate is not meant as an expression of intolerance.

“Our symbol incorporates the battle flag in it, and that is a copywritten symbol that is approved by the United States government,” said Larry McCluney of Greenwood, Miss. “Why would a local entity be opposed to that?”

The group, whose stated mission is to honor members’ ancestors who fought for the South, is based in Tennessee but was founded in the former Confederate capital of Richmond, Va., in 1896.

Other states with similar license plates include Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee, according to their DMV registries.

Proceeds help pay for a range of items, including T-shirts, replica battle uniforms, and trips, McCluney said.