At least one state has taken a strong stand against America’s secularizing culture. Voters in the state of Mississippi chose a flag with “In God We Trust” emblazoned on it. This summer, amid the George Floyd protests, the state legislature passed a bill to retire the 1894 state flag — the Confederate Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia — and adopt a new flag.
The new flag features a large white magnolia blossom — Mississippi is the Magnolia State — on a blue field with twenty stars around it, signifying that the state was the 20th state to join the union, and “In God We Trust” beneath the flower. The top of the flag includes a gold five-point star to reflect the state’s indigenous Native American tribes.
Mississippians have voted overwhelmingly to replace the state's Confederate-themed flag with a new design. The AP reports nearly 70% of voters cast ballots in support of the referendum.https://t.co/So9hhDBnpJ
— NPR (@NPR) November 4, 2020
The bill establishing the flag, House Bill 1796, called for a new design that “shall honor the past while embracing the promise of the future,” CNN reported. It required that the design exclude the Confederate battle flag and include “In God We Trust.” The bill also established a nine-member commission to pick a design. The commission settled on the magnolia design after considering nearly 3,000 submissions from the public.
Mississippi voted overwhelmingly to keep the Confederate emblem on the flag in 2001.
Mississippi was the last state in the country whose flag included the Confederate emblem. Many on the Left have advocated the removal of Confederate symbols and flags from the public square. While those initiatives arguably go too far, it seems fitting for Mississippi to reject the old flag connected to the Confederacy.
Many Americans fly the Confederate flag as a symbol of Southern pride without intending to celebrate or endorse the Confederacy.
While Americans know the Civil War was about slavery and ended in the abolition of slavery, they often misunderstand the causes of the war. The Southern states seceded from the Union after Abraham Lincoln took office, but not because Lincoln intended to abolish slavery. Lincoln intended to prevent the expansion of slavery north of the Missouri Compromise line, reversing the efforts of Democrats who had held Congress and the presidency for years. The Southern states seceded in order to defend and expand slavery, and Lincoln only ended up abolishing slavery at the end of the war.
This arguably makes the Confederacy even worse. Not only did the Confederacy stand for race-based slavery, it represented the South’s tantrum after Lincoln restricted its radical support for slavery.
Given this context, it is good for Mississippi to reject the Confederate flag as the official government symbol for the state. Those who fly the Confederate flag are not racist and do not necessarily support the Confederacy. Even so, a state should not fly a flag that represents a rebellion against the United States, especially a rebellion in pursuit of expanding race-based slavery.
Conservatives who fear this move should take solace in the fact that Mississippi has chosen “In God We Trust” for the flag. This winsome change represents a celebration of the United States, as “In God We Trust” has been the official motto since 1956. Those who fear the rejection of a Confederate symbol would involve the erasure of history should take solace in the fact that Mississippi’s inclusion of God on its flag echoes the Declaration of Independence, which grounds Americans’ rights in God’s law.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.