Tuesday, December 6, 2016
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Attorneys for Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant have asked a federal appeals court not to revive a lawsuit that sought to erase the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag.
State attorneys filed arguments Monday with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, saying U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled correctly in September when he dismissed a lawsuit by attorney Carlos Moore.
Moore, who is African-American, had argued that the flag made him anxious, caused him to lose sleep and exacerbated his high blood pressure.
"The district court was correct that Moore fails to identify that part of the Constitution that guarantees a legal right to be free of anxiety," state assistant attorneys general Douglas Miracle and Harold Pizzetta wrote.
On Nov. 1, Moore asked the appeals court to order Reeves to hold a trial on other arguments he made in the lawsuit he filed in February. Moore said the flag symbolizes a government embrace of white supremacy and the status of African-Americans as "second-class citizens."
The Mississippi flag, used since 1894, is the only remaining state banner with the Confederate battle emblem — a red field topped by a blue tilted cross dotted with 13 white stars.
Mississippi voters chose to keep the flag in a 2001 election, but the design has come under increased scrutiny since the June 2015 shooting deaths of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The white man now on trial in the slayings had previously posed with a Confederate battle flag in photos published online before the killings.
Critics say the Confederate emblem is a symbol of slavery and segregation, while supporters say it represents history and heritage.
All eight of Mississippi's public universities and several cities and counties have stopped flying the state flag, many of them since the Charleston killings. Instead of the state flag, some businesses and local governments have started flying a bicentennial banner unveiled in October by the state chamber of commerce, the Mississippi Economic Council. Mississippi marks 200 years of statehood in 1817. The bicentennial banner has wide horizontal stripes of red, white and blue with the state seal in the center. It does not have the Confederate battle emblem.
Judge Reeves rejected Moore's argument that the Confederate emblem is an unconstitutional vestige of slavery, and picked apart arguments made outside the courtroom by many flag supporters who say that Mississippi's secession from the union before the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery.
Reeves quoted the state's 1861 secession declaration, which said: "'Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world.'"