Fox News Spotlights Pastor Flying Christian Flag Over American Flag

Fox News Channel's Elisabeth Hasselbeck interviewed Pastor Rit Varriale on Tuesday's Fox and Friends over his church's decision to fly a Christian flag over the American flag. Hasselbeck noted how "the move is sparking an outrage on social media," and wondered it was "a fight for faith, or a slam to Old Glory." [video below]

The anchor first asked Varriale, "What is your message in flying the church's flag above the American flag?" The North Carolina pastor answered, in part, that "if you're a monotheist and you believe God is the highest authority, then you have to stop when any human authority would try to get you to dishonor that commitment to God. And that's where we're at right now."

Hasselbeck followed up by wondering if the guest was "referring to the government here or the Supreme Court? Who is disrespecting the religion – or your religion right here that you believe you need to send this visible message to?" Varriale underlined that "we've seen for quite a while now a pushback on Christian – traditional Christian values in our culture. I mean, you can go all the way back to the issue of prayer in school."

The Fox News anchor then pointed to some of the negative viewer reaction to the pastor's move:

ELISABETH HASSELBECK: Some may – Pastor, some may agree with your message there, but the method in which you're showing it is really piercing some. Paul on Facebook wrote us this: 'Flying any flag over the American flag here in our country is an insult to our country. I see it as unpatriotic and offensive.' Sid on Facebook saying, what do you ask – 'what you ask us to do is unthinkable. My father served in World War II for his love of country and to preserve our republic.' So what do you say to people who feel as though you're actually disrespecting Old Glory in putting forth your message?

RIT VARRIALE, PASTOR, ELIZABETH BAPTIST CHURCH: Sure. I can understand that. I'm a veteran. I love our country. I went to The Citadel. I'm – I'm incredibly patriotic. At the same time, I'm a Christian, and when you look at our nation – when you look at the values of our nation, I think what we're reflecting here is what has been rather consistent with the majority of our people. And if people would take the time to look at what we're doing – we had our youth involved with the raising of the flag ceremony – we are teaching them absolute flag respect.

And when I sit there and think about the fact that I fought for people to have the freedom to burn it, to spit on it, to walk on it – I certainly fought – or was willing to serve – didn't fight in combat – was willing to serve in order to protect the right for people to be able to express their religious beliefs as well. And that's exactly what we're doing here. We're simply expressing our religious beliefs – commitment to God first. And I think – I was in the military – many, many veterans share this concern. Many veterans feel that their religious beliefs are being suppressed by the government right now, and – and that's not something that can happen. We need to stand up for what we believe in; and as religious citizens, we have all the right to do that.

Over two hours later, as Hasselbeck and co-anchors Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy read some of the other viewer responses to her interview, she gave her own two cents on the issue: "You know, as a Christian, I'm not sure anything should fly above the American flag; and I'm not sure God needs a flag – to be perfectly honest – but I can understand where he's coming from."

The transcript of Elisabeth Hasselbeck's interview of Pastor Rit Varriale from Tuesday's Fox and Friends on Fox News Channel:

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: The value of it is we put God before country.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: It's our heritage. This what we have grown up to believe. It's our teaching.

ELISABETH HASSELBECK: Well, a fight for faith, or a slam to Old Glory? A North Carolina pastor deciding to fly the Christian flag above the Stars and Stripes, but the move is sparking an outrage on social media.

Joining us now is the man behind this movement, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church, Rit Varriale. Pastor. Thank you, Pastor, for joining us today. What's your message-

Thank you. Thanks for the invite-

HASSELBECK: What is your message in flying the church's flag above the American flag?

RIT VARRIALE, PASTOR, ELIZABETH BAPTIST CHURCH: Well, it's pretty consistent with three things, as we've been talking about. It's consistent with our pledge, where we say 'one nation under God.' It's consistent with the founding documents of our nation, where you see the general religious sentiments of the people being expressed. And then, it's consistent with our belief in God – which is, really, the most important thing. God is first. I mean, if you're a monotheist and you believe God is the highest authority, then you have to stop when any human authority would try to get you to dishonor that commitment to God. And that's where we're at right now.

HASSELBECK: And how – are you referring to the government here or the Supreme Court? Who is disrespecting the religion – or your religion right here that you believe you need to send this visible message to?

VARRIALE: Well, certainly, we've seen for quite a while now a pushback on Christian – traditional Christian values in our culture.  I mean, you can go all the way back to the issue of prayer in school. You know, when the government started telling us that we can't pray with our children at institutions that our tax dollars paid for; and then, when the church just simply complied – that's an issue. I mean, we have senior adults – their lives are a witness – a testimony to the fact that what we're living in right now is not always the way it's been in America. They grew up with prayer. They grew up with Bible readings and the Pledge at the beginning of their school day – and it was constitutional-

HASSELBECK: Some may – Pastor, some may agree with your message there, but the method in which you're showing it is really piercing some. Paul on Facebook wrote us this: 'Flying any flag over the American flag here in our country is an insult to our country. I see it as unpatriotic and offensive.' Sid on Facebook saying, what do you ask – 'what you ask us to do is unthinkable. My father served in World War II for his love of country and to preserve our republic.' So what do you say to people who feel as though you're actually disrespecting Old Glory in putting forth your message?

VARRIALE: Sure. I can understand that. I'm a veteran. I love our country. I went to The Citadel. I'm – I'm incredibly patriotic. At the same time, I'm a Christian, and when you look at our nation – when you look at the values of our nation, I think what we're reflecting here is what has been rather consistent with the majority of our people. And if people would take the time to look at what we're doing – we had our youth involved with the raising of the flag ceremony – we are teaching them absolute flag respect.

And when I sit there and think about the fact that I fought for people to have the freedom to burn it, to spit on it, to walk on it – I certainly fought – or was willing to serve – didn't fight in combat – was willing to serve in order to protect the right for people to be able to express their religious beliefs as well. And that's exactly what we're doing here. We're simply expressing our religious beliefs – commitment to God first. And I think – I was in the military – many, many veterans share this concern. Many veterans feel that their religious beliefs are being suppressed by the government right now, and – and that's not something that can happen. We need to stand up for what we believe in; and as religious citizens, we have all the right to do that.

HASSELBECK: Well, you are sparking a great debate right now in our country, and I'm sure many are going to express their opinion following this segment right here. Pastor, we thank you for your time today.

VARRIALE: Thank you for the invitation.

Culture/Society Conservatives & Republicans Religious Right Religion Christianity Fox News Channel Fox & Friends Video Elisabeth Hasselbeck
Matthew Balan's picture