Timothy Bella, Washington Post, May 7, 2021
A rock near a woman’s driveway in upstate New York could affect the custody case of her multiracial daughter. But it’s not the rock itself that’s potentially risking a mother’s custody of her child. It’s what’s decorated on the rock: The Confederate flag.
Appellate justices with the New York Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a Tompkins County woman to remove the Confederate flag-painted rock or risk a “change in circumstances” to the child custody case of her young daughter.
Justice Stanley Pritzker wrote in the unanimous 5-0 decision that while the woman, identified only as Christie BB, was protected under the First Amendment to display the Confederate flag, the rock’s presence through June 1 would force the court to reconsider the joint custody she has with the girl’s father.
“Given that the child is of mixed race, it would seem apparent that the presence of the flag is not in the child’s best interests, as the mother must encourage and teach the child to embrace her mixed-race identity, rather than thrust her into a world that only makes sense through the tortured lens of cognitive dissonance,” wrote Pritzker, representing the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court’s Third Department.
At a fact-finding hearing, Christie BB acknowledged that “she had a rock with a Confederate flag painted on it at her home.” The appeals court noted that the Confederate flag-decorated rock was not addressed by the child’s law guardian or the family court.
“In response to questioning, the mother testified that she has never used any racial slurs in front of the child or at all,” the decision said.
The court added that the Confederate flag was “a symbol inflaming the already strained relationship” between the girl’s parents.
Efforts to reach Jason Leifer, the attorney for the child, were unsuccessful. Leifer told The Associated Press said he recognized the court’s concern for the Confederate flag’s presence, but wondered whether the ruling could make political views more of a target in family court.