- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi officials are expressing differing opinions about whether to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag:


Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, the only black member of Mississippi’s congressional delegation, said Tuesday that his office does not display the state flag, which includes the Confederate battle emblem.

“I will not offend the constituents who come to my office by having this symbol of intolerance greet them at the door,” Thompson said in a statement.

He praised Republican state House Speaker Philip Gunn, who said Monday that the Confederate symbol is offensive and should be removed from the state flag. Thompson said he hopes other state officials will agree.

“This flag is not just some piece of cloth that bears no importance; it is the physical manifestation of a time of hate, oppression and slavery that split this country at its seams,” Thompson said. “It also serves as a barrier around the entire state of Mississippi telling everyone else in this country that progress is not welcomed here.”


Mississippi House Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, said Tuesday that the flag should be changed.

“I believe any state flag should be a common symbol citizens can unite behind and proudly embrace as their own,” Snowden said in a statement. “If our flag is no longer useful for those purposes - to instill pride and unity across the broad spectrum of citizens - then we should reconsider its current status. I certainly agree with Speaker Gunn that the time has come to have that conversation.”


Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, said in a statement: “Our state will be 200 years old in 2017. If the flag does not represent our citizens today, then we, as a body, should select one that does. This discussion must not deter from our efforts to create jobs, address the autism epidemic, reduce crime or educate our children.”


Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, said that as a private citizen in 2001, he voted to change the flag.

“You’ve got to ask yourself the question: What would Jesus do in this circumstance?” Hood told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday. “When it is something that is offensive to at least one-third of our population, we ought to at least consider what we’re doing.”

He said keeping the Old South symbol on the state flag could hurt Mississippi’s economic development efforts. While some other officials say the issue should be decided by voters, Hood said he thinks legislators should tackle it. “If they want to dodge that bullet, that’s their call,” Hood said. “I think they ought to at least debate it.”


Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2014, issued a statement against removing the Confederate emblem from the Mississippi flag. He called slavery “our nation’s original sin,” but said people should not blame problems on symbols like the flag.

“I disagree with those who use political correctness to silence differing viewpoints,” McDaniel wrote. “I likewise believe it is in poor taste to use the tragic South Carolina massacre to promote a political agenda.”


Two state senators - Derrick Simmons of Greenville, who is a black Democrat; and Dr. David Parker of Olive Branch, who is a white Republican - issued a joint statement calling for a change in the state flag. They noted that the Legislature voted in 2014 to change the state seal to add “In God We Trust” to recognize a divine power that created all people equal.

“We believe it is time to change another historic symbol of our state, because we recognize that many of our citizens feel it is hurtful and represents a time and perspective that did not respect equality,” Simmons and Parker wrote. “For too long we have engaged in endless debates between heritage and hate. We believe we should find a compromise that embraces history and healing.”

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