There's a debate at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn., over an American flag that has been repurposed to include the colors of the rainbow.
The flag was posted by MT Lambda, a student group for gays and lesbians on campus. It's part of a display to mark LBGT Month and the organization's 25th anniversary. But it's doing more than that -- it's also sparking some pointed arguments.
Some people are calling the rainbow flag -- which includes 50 stars but replaces the traditional red and white stripes with rainbow colors -- offensive and "un-American," Nashville's WTVF-TV reported.
Ralph Drye, an MTSU graduate, told WMSV-TV he believes changing the flag is wrong.
"To take that flag and to change it is what's wrong," he told WMSV. "I don't care if they're right, left or center."
And one WTVF viewer wrote an email accusing the student group's flag of being "against the law."
MT Lambda members deny these accusations and say they're perplexed by the response they've received.
"It's really caught us by surprise that this flag has caused so much controversy, because in essence it's not an American flag, it's symbolic of that," group president Joshua Rigsby said.
The gay rights display at Middle Tennessee State University (Image source: WTVF-TV)
MT Lambda says the flag isn't a violation of the law, and in fact is a design that's been around for a while -- and one the group has used before.
"Desecrating an American flag would entail ripping, or shredding, or burning an actual 13 red and white strip American flag, and that's not what this is," Rigsby said.
The university took concerns to lawyers and to the state attorney general's office. It was advised that as a registered student group, MT Lambda's flag display is constitutionally-protected speech -- and here to stay.