Government / Politics

Hollister Council and public clash over flags again, rescind flag policy

Opposers of the Christian flag say the push is in retaliation to the LGBTQ flag being displayed in June. Councilman walks out in protest during discussion.

Editor’s note: The headline and summary were updated to better reflect the story. Last updated Sept. 22 at 5:30 p.m.

 

Even though the Hollister City Council voted 3-1 on Sept. 20 to approve all current flag requests, emotions were heated over claims from resident Elia Salinas and Councilman Rolan Resendiz against Christians’ motives for requesting to fly the Christian flag. The City Council also rescinded its flag display policy it adopted in May. 

Last April, when former Hollister Councilwoman Honor Spencer said that “by putting [the LGBTQ Pride] flag outside City Hall, we’re opening a can of worms.” She also warned, “The first time we do not say yes there will be a lawsuit.”

Both forecasts may yet come true.

After spending $12,500 to erect two additional flagpoles in front of City Hall and approving what the council now views as an ill-conceived flag policy, only the Pride flag has been flown so far on what is referred to as the unity pole. Along the way, the council debated and stalled after requests were made to fly the Christian flag, the Thin Blue Line flag, the Breast Cancer Awareness flag.

Even as members of the public voiced their dismay over the entire flag issue, the council voted to approve flying the Christian flag in April 2022, along with the Thin Blue Line flag and the Breast Cancer Awareness flag in October, in addition to rescinding the entire flag policy.

The Christian flag request came through Councilman Rick Perez after an application with 120 signatures by Hollister residents was submitted last June. It was tabled, though, as a letter was sent to the state’s attorney general for an opinion. Then when the possibility arose that the flag policy would be rescinded, Mayor Ignacio Velazquez said he requested that it be placed on the Sept. 20 agenda without waiting for the attorney general’s response.

Velazquez related how he traveled to Afghanistan in 2003, where he said he witnessed issues between Islam and Christianity. He didn’t explain what he meant, but he ultimately suggested the flying of the Christian flag should be brought back to the council even though it was obvious by his earlier comments that he would not support it.  

Perez said, “Regarding Afghanistan, this is America, and we have freedom here. I’m sick and tired of this whole flag issue, so let’s get to a vote and move on.” He later apologized for “being too harsh.”

Four residents questioned the council’s motives concerning discrimination against Christianity, a lack of knowledge of the Constitution, and the possibility of lawsuits. 

Salinas disagreed with the other speakers, saying she believed the separation of church and state did apply, and repeated a comment she made at a previous council meeting: “That Christian flag does not represent myself, nor a large, quiet majority of the community.” She went on to say that the only reason there was a movement to raise the Christian flag was because the LGBTQ Pride flag was flown. She claimed, without proof, that local Christians “don’t want the gay flag up there because it’s immoral.”

Resendiz said he agreed with Salinas in that Christians were only reacting to the LGBTQ Pride flag. Perez interrupted him to say “that’s a lie.” When Velazquez cautioned Perez that he was out of order, Perez responded, “So is this man over here (referring to Resendiz who was participating in the meeting via Zoom). If you need to fine me, then fine me. You’re wrong Rolan.”

Resendiz then said, “This is what happens when you play those games. If there is a tie vote tonight, I will vote to break that tie. I guarantee you that. Bring the circus on. The LGBTQ flag is a human rights issue.”

As Resendiz started to explain his Catholic faith, Perez challenged, “Point of order. We’re supposed to be talking about the Christian flag.” Velazquez told Perez he would allow Resendiz to continue because “you heard many people tonight here referencing the same issue.” Perez argued back at the mayor, “So, we’re going to talk about the Pride flag. Then you’re out of order for letting him do this.”

As Resendiz continued making his points about the Christian flag, Perez walked out of council chambers in protest. When the mayor asked for a motion, Resendiz moved to deny the request to fly the Christian flag and the mayor seconded it. Perez returned to the room to vote yes, but Councilman Tim Burns asked the city clerk to explain the motion and when Perez realized his error he changed his vote to “no.” Burns also voted “no,” so the motion did not carry. On the advice of City Attorney Jason Epperson, Burns made a second motion to approve the request and Perez seconded it. Resendiz kept his word and changed his vote to yes, to break the tie, but the mayor remained adamant and voted against flying the Christian flag.

 

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John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a BenitoLink reporter and an author. He has many years' experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer who has worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and underwent graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John has worked as a script doctor and his own script, God's Club, was released as a motion picture in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]