I guess that is what makes America special. America is not just a political state but an ideal. Many foreigners regard America as a melting pot but we are not. We are a mosaic like the Church is with many parts forming one body. The flag is the embodiment of our Faith just as much as it is an embodiment of the people. Similarly Greece also embodies their Faith on their flag as represented by the cross. Doing away with the flag is the equivalent of doing away with religion.
I understand your point of view and how you may equate patriotism for your country with support for a soocer team but it is not the same thing in America. In America patriotism for your country is comparable to our Faith in God. This is more along the lines of the medieval monarchies in which the king was a divine ruler so is America today led by the Grace of God. In God We Trust. One nation under God.
There is a political debate in America which is seeking to remove the Judeo-Christian ethic our country was founded on from the government. That is to remove God from schools and government. To not start government meetings with a prayer, to remove the ten commandments from the courts, to remove God from our pledge and from our currency. The churches in America are opposed to this seperation because God plays an integral role in our government, schools, courts, military, and politics. Likewise we would never remove our flag from our Church as it also is integrated into the fabric of our Faith.
I am sorry your country is not founded on Faith in God but this does not mean you should try to remove God from my country or remove my country from my Faith as the two are linked just as it is shown on the Byzantine flag.
Maybe when the Patriarch removes one head and the orb from the Byzantine flag and seperates God from secular politics, or when our theology seperates the material from the spiritual, or when Jesus is no longer a man of this world and only of divine spirit, then I could concur with you that country and religion are seperate.
It should be noted that, at least for those in the United States, the origins of Orthodoxy on the North American continent are ethnic in background. That is history, for better or worse. While the Church has, or is, progressing beyond the 'ethnic ghetto' mentality we can not forget the turmoil of the 20th century and the difficulties that those immigrants faced in a new country. Hence reasons for the display of the American flag being displayed within the Church proper may include:
a.) Thanksgiving for being able to express their faith in a free country,
b.) In the face of anti-immigrant sentiment ( common thoughout American history) a desire to show the the members were
While there reasons may no longer resonate in the way they did in past generations, the removal of the flag today may not be readily understood. Frankly, to describe the American flag as a symbol of a "... Protestant/ secular republic..." dishonors the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifices of ALL groups who came to these shores in search of a better life - be they hard working men and women who toiled in the fields and factories or who gave their lives for that banner as the 'last full measure of devotion."
ISTM that many spend of us far too much time speculating and worrying about the 'externals' in one parish, diocese or another and not enough about the 'internals' within each individuals heart and soul.
BTW, I can't speak for the presence of 'foreign' flags such as in many of the Greek or Ukrainian parishes, as the Rusyn people never had a nation of their own, with a unique emblem; but I would not presume to judge the motives of those who do so.