Two of the legislators representing Marion County say a lot of the pressure they are receiving to change the state flag is coming from outside the state and not from people here.
State Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune, and State Rep. Ken Morgan, R-Morgantown, shared their thoughts Thursday about the increasing movement to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag.
Morgan said he has received thousands of emails from places such as New Mexico and Nebraska as well within Mississippi. Overall, he said, it has been even in the responses for and against keeping the flag for those people.
But on Thursday morning he said when he got to the Capitol he had 11 messages from his constituents: 10 said to keep the current flag while just one said it's time to change it.
He said someone got into the GOP message system Wednesday and sent out messages, falsely claiming to be from him and other legislators, saying they were saying it was time to change the flag. Morgan said he had nothing to do with those messages and that they are investigating who broke into the system. He posted a message on Facebook Wednesday clarifying his position, saying, “I like it just like it is.”
Morgan said he was worried people are trying to erase history. If no one talks about the past, one cannot learn from it and leave it open for the past to repeat itself, he said.
Morgan, who represents about 25,000 in District 100, said he was elected to serve “of the people, by the people and for the people.” He said it isn’t his opinion that matters but the people he represents.
“People expect me to represent them; I can’t vote how I want but by the wishes of the people I represent,” he said.
The current flag was adopted in 1894, and 64% of voters approved keeping it in a 2001 referendum.
But pressure has been mounting this week to make the change. The SEC, NCAA and Conference USA have all announced no post-season collegiate play will take place in the state as long as the flag remains as it is.
Hill said, “The SEC and the voices of the universities have already tried to use economic threats against our religious liberty and our gun rights since I’ve been in office. I took an oath to the Constitution, not the SEC.”
Hill said she concurs with a statement issued by the Mississippi District of the United Pentecostal Church. A part of the statement reads:
“The first five words of our state constitution are ‘We the people of Mississippi.’ We strongly believe that ‘We the people of Mississippi’ can come together to freely, openly and thoughtfully discuss whether we should adopt a new flag. Mississippi law provides the mechanism for a referendum process, and that is the fairest way for the people of Mississippi to decide this issue.”
At the state level, Republican Speaker of the House Philip Gunn has been a long-time advocate for changing the flag. Gunn said he would support a suspension resolution to adopt a new flag, according to Mississippi Today. A suspension resolution requires at least two-thirds of House and Senate members. If it is approved by the Legislature, it would then be passed on to the governor who has the power to sign it into being or veto it.
Lt. Delbert Hosemann, a Republican who heads the state Senate, released a statement Wednesday in favor of changing the flag. He proposed a design for a new flag, saying, “In my mind, our flag should bear the Seal of the Great State of Mississippi and state ‘In God We Trust.’ I am open to bringing all citizens together to determine a banner for our future.”
Gov. Tate Reeves has previously said he believes the voters should have the right to vote on the flag, a sentiment Hill and Morgan agree with; whereas, Gunn supports making the change through the legislative process.
On Thursday the eight Mississippi public universities’ athletic directors and coaches held a press conference in Jackson to advocate changing the new flag. The Mississippi Association of Community Colleges issued a statement June 23 stating all 15 community colleges’ presidents have voted to support changing the current flag.
Mississippi Baptist Convention also said this week it is in support of a new flag, along with the Mississippi Economic Council and other groups.