In front of the Supreme Court judge's house, a revolutionary-era flag now adorns Christian nationalism

Flags related to the January 6, 2021 riot and the overall efforts by Donald Trump and his supporters to overturn the final result of the 2020 presidential election flew on the homes of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

One, one the other way up American flaghas long been an emblem of a ship – or a nation – in distress, which Trump supporters adopted after the 2020 election. The flag flew at Alito's residence in Virginia on January 17, 2021, just 11 days after the riot on the U.S. Capitol.

The other photo, flown in the summertime of 2023 at an Alito family vacation home on the New Jersey coast, shows a lone pine tree and bears the words “An appeal to heaven.“ This flag, sometimes referred to as “Pine Tree Flag”, is a relic of the Revolutionary era and represents strength against tyrannical enemies. Like all long-used symbols, the pine tree flag has a wealthy history of use and continues to vary its connotations over time.

We are scientists of visually And political rhetoric who study the cultural significance Symbols attributedlike flags, and like these Symbols function on this planetGiven what we find out about symbolism, the Appeal to Heaven flag offers each historical and latest connotations.

A colonial history

The image on the flag of Appeal to Heaven was in-built 1652 when the colony of Massachusetts began minting Pine Shillingwhich were coins printed with pine trees.

The lonely pine is a Symbol of New Englandwhile the phrase “An Appeal to Heaven” on the flag is 1775 Resolution by the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts.

The 1775 resolution was inspired by the English philosopher John Locke. Locke argued in 1690 that individuals “Appeal to Heaven' when their rights are denied. The phrase and image on the flag symbolize the best to revolt against a tyrannical government.

As if to verify the revolutionary significance of the flag, in 1775 six schooners under the command of George Washington the flag waved while encountering British ships.

Modern uses

Today, the flag appears in social movements for various purposes. For example, in 2020, the Appeal to Heaven flag appeared at a Black Lives Matter protest dance party in Washington, DC.

But that just isn’t essentially the most common use. Since 2013, the Appeal to Heaven flag has taken on Christian nationalist overtones. Christian Nationalism refers to a set of ideological beliefs that portray the United States as a purely Christian, God-ordained nation.

Minister of South Carolina Dutch papers used social and traditional media to advertise the flag. Sheets spread the assumption that the The USA ought to be a Christian nationwhich ought to be regulated through belief in Christian superiority.

Over the last decade, Sheets and his fellow believers brought the flag to the state capitols and other public events to advertise his efforts to elect evangelical Christian leaders to political office.

On January 6, 2021, the flag appeared within the hands of insurgents, including the Proud boys. When insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, the “Appeal to Heaven” flag was considered one of many symbols leading the violence. After the harrowing events of that day, the flag became more closely related to the “Stop the Steal” effort, alongside general pro-Trump slogans.

In a resolution dated 31 January 2024 Facebook postA flag company advertised the “Appeal to Heaven” flag with an in depth description, which included the meaning of “goes beyond its historical origins“ and is “made very popular among Republicans and Christians … and is seen as a symbol of Christian nationalism.”

In the next years, the flag was displayed by elected officials, equivalent to Speaker of the House Mike Johnsonwho placed it in front of his congressional office. Senator from the State of Arizona. Janae Shamp used it on her desk within the Arizona Senate chamber. Co-Chair of the Federalist Society Leonard-Leothe conservative court activist who Hundreds of hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to remodel the federal judiciary, hung it in front of his house in Maine.

The Louisiana state flag and the “Appeal to Heaven” flag hang in a hallway.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson displays the flag with the inscription “Appeal to Heaven” next to the Louisiana state flag in front of his office door.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

A signal to the initiated

Despite the flag's clear connection to Christian nationalist ideology, a few of Alito's defenders say that just isn’t the flag's meaning.

For example Carrie Campbell Severino accused “the news establishment” is attempting to rewrite the history of this “Revolutionary War flag” as if it was “somehow connected to January 6th.” Severino said the thought was “completely ridiculous.” She is president of the Leo-affiliated Concord Fundsformerly Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative advocacy group that allegedly “unrivalled influence … in shaping the federal judiciary.”

In a May 29, 2024, letter responding to inquiries from members of Congress, Alito denied knowing the meaning of the flag. The New York Times quoted his letter as saying:

I was not aware of any connection between this historic flag and the Stop the Steal movement, and neither does my wife. … She did not raise it to identify with this or any other group, and the use of an old historic flag by a new group does not necessarily take away all other meanings from that flag.”

Some commentators on the flag controversy wondered aloud concerning the encrypted meaning of the flag, while others pound The flag is a “dog whistle” for pro-Trump and Christian nationalist ideologues. The flag is maybe an emblem that the majority people would overlook, but that appeals to a select audience. Research has shown that racist and non secular dog whistles help “Mobilizing … support for racist resentment“white Christian voters” without alienating others.

The meaning of symbols like this flag inevitably changes over time. And while Alito’s actual beliefs could also be difficult to discern, the recent revelations should draw attention to how the flag symbolizes a spread of beliefs held by conservative activists, Christian nationalists and those that need to impose their radical views on the country.

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