The Confederate flag flying at the Statehouse in Columbia became part of the Charleston church shooting story Thursday after the U.S. and South Carolina flags were lowered in mourning but the rebel banner was left flying at its full height.

State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, a black Democratic lawmaker and minister, was among the nine people killed by a lone gunman accused of committing a hate crime. The suspect, Dylann Roof, 21, also displayed Confederate sympathies in some social media photographs.

Internet chatter lit up about the debate Thursday.

“When you fly the Confederate flag in your state capital you are sanctioning this terrorism. Just FYI,” Roxane Gay said on Twitter.

The “ubiquity of the Confederate flag in the South should be a source of shame/outrage. Not here for any lame-... ‘history’ arguments,” said LadyHawkins, also on Twitter.

Officials said the reason why the flag has not been touched is that its status is outlined, by law, as being under the protected purview of the full S.C. Legislature, which controls if and when it comes down.

State law reads, in part, the state “shall ensure that the flags authorized above shall be placed at all times as directed in this section and shall replace the flags at appropriate intervals as may be necessary due to wear.”

The protection was added by supporters of the flag to keep it on display as an officially recognized memorial to South Carolinians who fought in the Civil War. Opponents say it defends a system that supported slavery and represents hate groups.

In a show of respect, a brief recognition ceremony was held in the Senate chamber Thursday. The U.S. and South Carolina flags were lowered from the dome. The square Confederate banner that’s in front of the building on display at the Confederate monument was left alone.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.