What is an ‘Appeal to Heaven’ flag?

An obscure Revolutionary War-era flag emblazoned with a pine tree has drawn renewed attention amid reports that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito flew the “Appeal to Heaven” flag above his New Jersey beach house in the past year.

The “Appeal to Heaven” flag, also known as the “Pine Tree” flag, features a rudimentary evergreen tree drawn on a white background with “An Appeal to Heaven” written in black block letters. Today, the flags can be purchased online for about $30.

The flag was initially designed by Col. Joseph Reed, an aide-de-camp to then-Gen. George Washington during the war. According to researchers, Reed had intended the “flag with a white ground and a tree in the middle” be a “signal by which our vessels may know one another.”

Several of the flags were spotted in the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in support of former President Trump and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Revolutionary War symbolism and slogans, including the cry of “1776,” were embraced by Trump supporters as they fought the 2020 election outcome.

More broadly, the “Appeal to Heaven” flag has served as a call for a conservative, Biblical-centered government. Nearly a decade ago, the flag was reported to be the source of contention in south Arkansas, as the Appeal to Heaven movement tried to catch fire.

The movement’s adherents ascribe to an effort to “honor the Lord by supporting candidates for public office who are believers in Jesus Christ, who regularly attend and display a commitment to an evangelical, Gospel-centered church, and who will commit to live and govern based on biblical … principles.”

On its website, the group also outlines the beliefs behind the flag: “Individuals have the right to worship God freely without the threat of government intrusion. Marriage was created by God as the union of one man and one woman for life as the basic building block of society. Life begins at conception and should be protected … Taxes should be levied only to support essential functions of government that individuals cannot do for themselves. The traditional, regressive income and property taxes should be replaced with a fair, sales based tax model.”

Gay marriage, reproductive rights and religious freedom are all contentious issues that have recently come before the high court.

A New York Times report this week revealed that Alito, the second most senior associate justice and a key conservative voice on the court, flew the arcane flag at his Long Beach Island, N.J., vacation home last summer, as Jan. 6 cases are coming before the high court.

It’s the second time this month that Alito has faced backlash over his symbolic decor. Alito’s Virginia home, shortly after the Jan. 6 riot, flew an upside-down American flag, which is typically a signal of distress but also embraced by the opponents of the 2020 election outcome.

Alito said the inverted American flag was his wife’s response to a personal spat with neighbors, but he has been open about his views on justices showing personal positions.

In a Wall Street Journal interview last year, coincidentally around the time that the “Pine Tree” flag was spotted at Alito’s beach house, the justice marveled that outsiders and advocates were not rallying to the court’s defense in the face of increased scrutiny.

“And so at a certain point I’ve said to myself, nobody else is going to do this, so I have to defend myself,” he said.

Alito has skipped every State of the Union address since 2010 because of the precarious position it puts justices in amid the partisan performances on the House floor, according to a separate Wall Street Journal interview.

Alito has also pushed back on an effort from some lawmakers to impose an enforceable code of ethics for justices.

“No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court — period,” he told the Journal.

Justice Clarence Thomas, another conservative voice on the court and the most senior associate justice, also has faced calls for his recusal from cases tied to the Capitol attack. Thomas’s wife, Ginni, was in close contact with Trump’s allies and key “Stop the Steal” organizers before protesters stormed the Capitol.

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