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Possible state flag change pulls different groups together looking for support

Speaker Philip Gunn in the House and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann in the Senate attempted to whip enough votes to change the state flag after the Mississippi lawmakers failed on Monday to garner enough votes to change the state flag. The Legislature’s two presiding officers organized a meeting on the issue with many of the state’s religious leaders.

Leaders of organizations representing Baptists, Roman Catholics, United Methodists and Pentecostals attended a meeting Tuesday morning at Mississippi College with Gunn and Hosemann to discuss changing the state flag, which features the Confederate battle emblem.

Many mainline religious organizations, such as the United Methodists, Episcopalians and Roman Catholics, already had endorsed changing the flag. The Pentecostals, though they were represented at the Tuesday morning meeting, still have not publicly endorsed changing the flag.

The Confederate-themed Mississippi flag drew opposition Tuesday from Southern Baptists. The conservative-leaning and majority-white Mississippi Baptist Convention has more than 500,000 members at more than 2,100 churches.

All of Mississippi's public universities stopped flying the state flag years ago because of the Confederate symbol. Several cities and counties have also removed it from public property, some long ago and some recently. On Tuesday, leaders of all 15 community colleges said the state should change the flag.

The NCAA, the Southeastern Conference, prominent business organizations and other religious groups have already called for the state to adopt a more inclusive banner.

Legislators are trying to finish their annual session in the next few days. A bipartisan group has been trying to gather enough votes to change the flag, but it's a tough task. Some lawmakers don't want change. Others want to kick a decision to a statewide election because they think changing the flag could endanger their own political careers.

Lawmakers plan to wrap up the 2020 legislative session on Friday.


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