Good’s Store in Quarryville, Pennsylvania, has been singled out by an irate customer for its refusal to stock American flags, in deference to the pacifist sentiments of its Amish and Mennonite customers. An AP dispatch last week indicated that the recent criticism was similar to the sentiments of patriots after 9/11, who criticized the store in downtown Quarryville, a town in rural Lancaster County southeast of Lancaster City, for not carrying flags.

Someone has dredged up the controversy once again by sending out a mass e-mail about the supposed hostility of the store to the flag. According to the anonymous e-mail, a young store clerk acted disdainfully when asked if the store carried flags. She supposedly said, “we don’t sell those here and we never will.” The writer urged a boycott of the store. Kenneth Burkholder, manager of the store, indicated that hundreds of stores catering to Amish and Mennonite customers also do not carry flags, which the Anabaptist peoples generally view as symbols of American military activities.

Burkholder could not find evidence that the exchange with a store clerk ever took place. He was concerned that the store never appear to be arrogant about its beliefs. He said the flag “means a lot of different things to different people.” He denied that the Anabaptist people are anti-American. They are grateful to live in a country that tolerates freedom of religion, and they don’t condemn others who buy and display flags. His company respects differing viewpoints, supports the communities in which their four stores are located, and pays its taxes.

The Amish, and the other Anabaptist groups, have always cherished the injunctions of Jesus to act nonviolently. Love and peace have been core beliefs for 500 years. Opposition to military violence is nothing new. The flag symbolizes an acceptance of fighting wars, which many of them do not accept. Their patriotism is based on the virtues of liberty and justice, rather than militarism and violence.

Detractors of the business argue that Good’s benefits from the activities of American troops, so they should salute the emblem of the country. “Cowards and hypocrites,” one opponent of the store’s anti-flag policy proclaimed. “They are so quick to condemn the U.S.A. and the military.”

Others have been equally vehement of the right of the store to sell whatever merchandise it chooses, precisely because America is supposedly a free country. One person wrote, “There are lots of people who would sell you a flag, who would also be tax cheats, sell you inferior goods, try to charge you unfairly, etc. With whom would you rather do business? An honest man who’s trying to live by his faith, or someone who will do anything for a buck?”

Burkholder said that the brouhaha is not going to affect the decision the 51 year old store has made to not carry flags. He concluded that he is getting tired of the controversy, and he wishes people would simply drop the subject.