Mississippi flag

A federal judge in Mississippi has set a hearing for a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of the Mississippi state flag.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves set the motion hearing for April 12 at the federal courthouse in downtown Jackson. Mississippi attorney Carlos Moore filed the suit Feb. 29, claiming that the Mississippi state flag, which contains a Confederate battle emblem, violates his constitutional rights and asking for it to be removed.

Moore, an attorney in Grenada, argues that the flag’s existence violates the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that the flag “has been shown to incite racial violence and terror both within the state of Mississippi and in a sister southern state with a similar history of racial discrimination.”

“I find the inclusion of the Confederate battle flag emblem in the Mississippi state flag painful, threatening and offensive,” Moore wrote in his initial complaint. “I object to the state flag… continuing to fly on public property. However, it continues to fly, causing me to continually suffer stigmatic, physical and emotional injuries.”

Gov. Phil Bryant, who has long supported the state flag in its current form, is the lone defendant in the case. The day the lawsuit was filed, Bryant’s spokesman Clay Chandler called the lawsuit “frivolous.” Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who has said the flag hurts Mississippi, said he will set aside his personal opinion and defend the governor.

Attorneys for Bryant, including Hood, Douglas Miracle and Harold Pizzetta, filed a motion to dismiss the suit, citing that Moore “has not suffered a legally cognizable injury,” and Moore’s “alleged injury is not fairly traceable to the state flag.”

In an order giving both sides time to file briefs, Reeves detailed the symbolism of the Confederate battle emblem, tying it to white supremacy.

“If this were a court of facts and facts along, therefore, it is difficult to see how the Confederate battle flag could remain in Mississippi’s state flag,” Reeves wrote. “But this is both a court of facts and law. And the law suggests that the presence of the Confederate battle flag in Mississippi’s state flag does not violate the U.S. Constitution.”

The hearing, which was announced on the trial’s online docket, will be held April 12 at 1:30 p.m. in Jackson.

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Adam Ganucheau, as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief, oversees the newsroom and works with the editorial team to fulfill our mission of producing high-quality journalism in the public interest. Adam has covered politics and state government for Mississippi Today since February 2016. A native of Hazlehurst, Adam has worked as a staff reporter for AL.com, The Birmingham News and The Clarion-Ledger and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Adam earned his bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Mississippi.