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Volunteers’ American flag removed from Science Center

For more than a decade, John and Claire Miller of Ross have spent nearly every Wednesday volunteering at the information desk in the Carnegie Science Center in the North Side.

But the retired couple say a decision by Science Center officials to remove a small desk-top American flag they placed on their work station makes them question whether they will return.

“We brought the flag in about six months ago, and nobody ever said a thing about it,” said Claire Miller, 78. “But then about six weeks ago, we came in to work and it was gone, and nobody would tell us why.”

Miller said she and her husband, John, 84, and a World War II Navy veteran, feel deeply patriotic and believe their flag should not have been removed.

“I think it’s going to be hard for us to be involved with an organization that doesn’t support the flag,” she said.

Science Center officials say the issue is not about whether the Millers should be allowed to have a flag on the counter, but rather whether employees adhere to policies.

Ron Baillie, co-director of the Science Center, said displaying personal items in an office or cubicle — such as flowers, photographs, knickknacks or a flag — is different than having them in public areas of the building.

“We’ve had employees and volunteers who are difficult to work with in terms of adhering to the kind of look we want for our lobby and other public areas of the facility,” Baillie said. “We certainly aren’t against the flag — we have a large flag outside the building and another one on the (USS Requin) submarine. This is about trying to keep the public areas looking appropriate.”

Science Center employees are not permitted to wear personal items such as political buttons or sports memorabilia on their uniforms, Baillie said.

Claire Miller thinks the flag deserves better treatment.

“The flag is a symbol of our nation, it’s not the same category as a potted plant,” she said.

Clark Rogers, acting executive director of the Pittsburgh-based National Flag Foundation, said while the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 prohibits condominium, cooperative or real estate management associations from restricting members from flying the flag, the law does not prevent organizations and private companies from establishing rules.


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