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Missouri state Rep. Chuck Basye (R-Rocheport) faces a storm of criticism for participating in a ceremony last weekend that honored Confederate soldiers, the Columbia Daily Tribune reports.

The group dedicated a gravestone to five guerrilla fighters who are buried on his family's land. What angered many is that some of ceremony participants saluted the Confederate battle flag.

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This comes as a national debate erupts over whether the Confederate battle flag should be removed from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse, following last week’s massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Photos have surfaced showing the shooter with the Confederate flag.

"It's important that we respect our history," Basye said at the ceremony, according to the Tribune. "I know a lot of it isn’t pleasant. A lot of people did some pretty bad things at the time, but it’s history, and it shouldn’t be changed. We should respect it and learn from it."

Missouri state Rep. Brandon Ellington (D-Kansas City), chairman of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus, has challenged Basye's stance. Ellington said that honoring the Confederate Army celebrates what it fought for, according to KMBC-TV.

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"Then you turn around and have a state representative honor fallen soldiers and a flag that represented slavery," Ellington said. "So on face value, it looks like you’re co-signing what’s happening in South Carolina by honoring the flag that represents keeping people in slavery."

Following the backlash, Basye denied having saluted the Confederate flag. He told the Missouri Times that such characterizations are "ridiculous" and "offensive."