Mississippians approved a new state flag Tuesday with the phrase "In God We Trust," and in doing so capped a contentious cultural debate over its old flag, which had incorporated the Confederate battle flag since 1894.
With nearly all of the vote counted, approval of the new flag led, 78-22 percent. The ballot included a depiction of the flag, which shows a magnolia blossom set against a dark blue background with gold stripes and red bars on both sides. The phrase “In God We Trust,” in all capital letters, rests underneath the blossom.
The Confederate-themed flag had been the center of controversy in the past, but the push to change the flag gained momentum this summer in the midst of protests over racial injustice. The Republican-led legislature approved and GOP Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill requiring a new flag design. The new law set up a commission to recommend a flag to voters that included "In God We Trust."
Reeves said his Christian faith led him to want to change the flag.
"There are people on either side of the flag debate who may never understand the other," he said in June. "We as a family must show empathy. We must understand that all who want change are not attempting to erase history. And all who want the status quo are not mean-spirited or hateful. God tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that the three great virtues are ‘faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’ I believe that all of us have to strive to reflect God’s love for us."
This summer, the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board also referenced Scripture in urging the legislature and the governor to change the flag.
"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 board said in a statement. "The racial overtones of the flag's appearance make this discussion a moral issue. Since the principal teachings of Scripture are opposed to racism, a stand against such is a matter of biblical morality. Jesus' ethical teaching calls us to rise above the precepts of this world, to demonstrate a higher treatment of others. ... It is therefore apparent that the need to change the flag is a matter of discipleship for every follower of Jesus Christ."
Photo courtesy: Mississippi Secretary of State
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.