Governor suggests calling on Boy Scouts, American Legion to ‘dispose’ of KU’s flag art

photo by: Kim Callahan

"Untitled (Flag 2)" by Josephine Meckseper is displayed Friday, July 13, 2018, in Spencer Museum of Art's Jack & Lavon Brosseau Center for Learning. The artwork, which was inspired by the American flag, came to the University of Kansas as part of a nationwide public art project and was removed by university officials from its outdoor display after outcry from Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer and other political figures.

After calling for a controversial American flag-inspired artwork to be removed from the University of Kansas campus, Gov. Jeff Colyer is also now suggesting that the Boy Scouts or American Legion be called in to “dispose” of the artwork.

Colyer made the suggestion during an appearance Thursday on “The Todd Starnes Show,” a Fox News Radio program. The governor demanded — successfully — to have the art removed from display outside KU’s Spooner Hall earlier this week, but he isn’t happy to see German-born artist Josephine Meckseper’s piece displayed at the university’s art museum, either.

Late Friday afternoon, the KU chancellor and interim provost issued a joint statement saying they had no intention of removing the art work from the museum prior to the scheduled end of the exhibition, which is set for the end of July.

Colyer said on Starnes’ radio show Thursday that the piece “Untitled (Flag 2)” was “politics masquerading as art” and needed to be “returned to sender.”

“Or, there’s another thing that can be done, and that is anytime you retire a flag, desecrate a flag or (have) a worn-out flag, you can call the American Legion, the Boy Scouts, and they will fold it properly, dispose of it properly and with respect — because it represents all of us together,” Colyer said. “And I’d be happy to make that call.”

Colyer spokesman Kendall Marr clarified to the Journal-World on Friday that the governor, to his knowledge, hadn’t followed up on that suggestion.

“I think the offer was to KU to call them on behalf of the university,” Marr said, adding, “I don’t think he’s heard back from the university on that.”

The Journal-World also asked Marr if the U.S. Flag Code’s disposal guidelines extended to artwork and other items featuring the American flag’s image. He said he “didn’t know the answer” to that question.

Burning is the preferred method in flag retirement ceremonies, according to Scouting magazine, the Boys Scouts of America’s official publication.

“A national flag that is worn beyond repair may be burned in a fire,” the BSA Handbook says. “The ceremony should be conducted with dignity and respect and the flag burned completely to ashes.”

Other methods recommended by the Boy Scouts include properly cutting the flag in an approved technique that yields the flag “no longer officially a flag,” or finding a flag-recycling group to convert the worn-out flag into a new one.

Some organizations also recommend flag burial services, with an optional funeral for the retired flag.

Meckseper’s artwork is the last of 16 flags created for the “Pledges of Allegiance” project, which launched at KU in November and will run until July 30. The university is one of 11 institutions at 13 locations across the country participating in “Pledges of Allegiance,” brought to KU by the Spencer Museum of Art and The Commons.

The piece was reinstalled at the Spencer Museum after its removal Wednesday outside KU’s Spooner Hall. The museum has said the artwork will remain there through the end of July.

Late Friday afternoon, the university put out a statement from KU Chancellor Douglas Girod and interim Provost Carl Lejuez announcing their “full commitment to ensuring the exhibit remains in the Spencer Museum through its scheduled run.”

The university’s statement also made an apparent reference to the chancellor’s service in the U.S. Navy.

“The University of Kansas prides itself on being a marketplace of ideas that supports engaged and inclusive dialogue with our communities,” the statement said. “As university leaders – one of whom is a Navy veteran – we understand the point of view of those who may disagree with the content of this kind of speech. At KU, we strongly affirm the right to express it.”


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