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Is This House Republican Calling for Armed Rebellion? He Won’t Say.

“You can infer what you want,” Rep. Jim Banks said.

Rep. Jim Banks R-Ind., talks to reporters.
Rep. Jim Banks posted the Appeal to Heaven flag on X the day former President Donald Trump was convicted in New York. Jose Luis Magana/AP

Rep. Jim Banks — a Republican who is seeking a Senate seat in Indiana this year — isn’t saying whether he opposes armed rebellion against the American government.

“I don’t take you seriously enough to answer your question,” Banks told NOTUS on Tuesday when asked, for the fourth time in person, if he opposes violent revolution against the United States.

On Monday night, Banks wouldn’t answer the same question when given three opportunities to do so. Instead, he complained to NOTUS about Democrats and said it was “a crazy question.”

But the question isn’t coming from nowhere. Banks has repeatedly declined to clarify what message he hoped to send by posting a captionless image of the Appeal to Heaven flag the same night Donald Trump was convicted of falsifying business records in New York. As of Wednesday, it was still his pinned tweet.

“I’ll let you make your own conclusions,” he said when asked about the post.

On Monday night, the closest Banks got to an explanation was to point to the upcoming election.

“We’re in unprecedented times, and November will be the result of regular people taking our country back,” he told NOTUS. “And then we’ll have a reset, and then we’ll take back our government and our country from the elites and those who are trying to destroy it. So you can infer whatever you’d like from that post.”

The Appeal to Heaven flag represents the Enlightenment idea of the right of revolution — that people facing oppression can take up arms for freedom when they have no other option, relying on God to judge in a conflict.

Because of the timing and because Banks posted no caption along with the image of the flag, some internet commenters interpreted his post to mean the congressman was so concerned about how Trump was being treated that he thought a revolution of some kind was in order.

Asked what his intended message was, after NOTUS told Banks that some had understood his post as a call to arms, Banks insisted on leaving it open to interpretation. And on Tuesday, when asked again for clarity, Banks had his own question: “Why are you curious?”

“You can infer what you want,” he said once again.

“Are you a Christian?” he asked. “Do you ever appeal to heaven?”

The Appeal to Heaven flag stands with the Louisiana state flag outside the district office of Speaker of the House Mike Johnson in the Cannon House Office Building.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The Appeal to Heaven flag was used by some of George Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War and has been flown by various state and local governments since America’s founding. But in recent years, it has also become increasingly popular with Christian nationalists and people on the far right, who seem to want to apply the right of revolution to today’s American politics.

Banks’ reluctance to state a clear message behind his post — or to simply disavow the most extreme interpretations of it — sets him apart from his own colleagues, even those who tout the same symbol. It isn’t the norm in Congress.

Other Republican lawmakers who embrace the Appeal to Heaven flag have drawn a red line: They say appreciating its history doesn’t mean they agree with the far-right movements associated with it. Several House Republicans told NOTUS last month that they fly it outside their Capitol Hill offices because they want to honor George Washington and because they like the symbol’s reference to John Locke’s writings.

“If someone, or a group, uses this flag as part of a movement, it does not change the true meaning of the phrase emblazoned on this banner, nor does it alter its important role in our nation’s history,” Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk, who has displayed the flag outside of his office since his first week in the House in 2015, told NOTUS. “History is only rewritten when we allow others to redefine the objects and symbols of our nation.”

Asked if he was trying to say the right of revolution is now fulfilled in peaceful elections, Banks was dismissive and noncommittal.

“Sure,” he responded. “I mean, this is the most important election of our lifetime.”

But, once again, to be clear, does he condemn any kind of violent insurrection?

He wouldn’t answer. Instead, he condemned “the Democrats for what they’ve done to weaponize the federal government against their political enemies.”

“It’s un-American,” Banks continued. “And I think the vast majority of the American people have had enough of it. So they’ll speak loudly on Election Day.”

OK, but really, just to make sure we’re not missing your point: Do you oppose the concept of a second civil war?

“That’s a crazy question,” Banks said, without answering it.

And when pressed again for his answer, he didn’t respond, disappearing into an elevator.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Banks did not respond to emails requesting the congressman’s opinion on armed rebellion against the U.S. government. On Wednesday, the spokesperson also did not respond to text messages from NOTUS, which were sent to his confirmed cell phone number, attempting again to see if Banks would like to offer clarity. The spokesperson did not answer phone calls from NOTUS ahead of this story’s publication, either.

The same spokesperson didn’t answer questions from NOTUS in May about Banks’ intended message in posting the picture of the flag.

It isn’t as hard to get other Republicans to share their view.

Rep. Chip Roy of Texas — a member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, who flies a different historic symbol of defiance outside his office, a version of the “Molon Labe” flag specific to the Texas war of independence —had a quick response on Tuesday when asked the same question Banks has faced: Does he oppose armed rebellion against the U.S. government?

As an elected official, Roy told NOTUS, he has sworn to uphold and defend the laws and Constitution of the United States.

This story has been updated to clarify the specific flag that Roy flies outside his office.

Haley Byrd Wilt is a reporter at NOTUS.