Mississippi’s largest religious group said Tuesday that state lawmakers have a moral obligation to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag because many people are “hurt and shamed” by the symbol.
“While some may see the current flag as a celebration of heritage, a significant portion of our state sees it as a relic of racism and a symbol of hatred,” the Mississippi Baptist Convention said in a statement. “The racial overtones of this flag’s appearance make this discussion a moral issue.”
The conservative-leaning and majority-white Southern Baptist group has more than 500,000 members in the state, in more than 2,100 churches. Mississippi’s population is about 3 million, and 38 percent of residents are African American.
Protests against racial injustice across the US are focusing new attention on the flag and other Confederate symbols. The Baptist Convention joins the NCAA, the Southeastern Conference, prominent business organizations, members of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus, and other religious groups in calling for change to the last state flag that includes the Confederate emblem—a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars.
Back in 2015, Mississippi native and Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore recalled how he decided to stop displaying his state flag when he realized how African Americans might view the symbol.
“I found myself wincing, wondering what the flag communicates. Should I explain this is not the Confederate flag? I wish it were different, but it’s not,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post.