Maina Kiai/

Mississippi lawmakers recently voted to remove the Confederate battle emblem from their state flag. The state’s Republican governor signed the decision into law, solidifying another response to ongoing racial reckoning and calls for change.

Now the debate continues as some question what the emblem will be replaced with.

A commission called to redesign the flag proposes swapping the Confederate symbol with the words “In God We Trust.” However, the suggestion that the new flag includes the words worried some advocates and watchdog groups outside of Mississippi, who see the phrase often invoked by conservative activists and lawmakers aligned with Christian nationalism.

One of those groups is Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which decried the phrase’s inclusion on the flag. They characterized it as trading “a white nationalist symbol for a Christian nationalist one.”

“Mississippians practice a variety of religions and faiths, and one in four identify as nonreligious,” Sam Sokol, a policy advocate at Americans United, wrote in a blog post. “Our state flags are powerful symbols, so they should represent our shared values and the diversity of our communities.”

“Especially white Americans and white Christians, when they hear ‘In God We Trust’ they kind of idealize this connection between the United States and a covenant with the Christian God. They’re really kind of saying that this country belongs to a certain (group), and really what they’re saying is it belongs to white Protestant people,” said Andrew Whitehead, a sociologist at Clemson University and co-author of “Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States.”

While some are debating the inclusion of “In God We Trust,” others celebrate the inclusion. Faith leaders in Mississippi are happy about the inclusion of the phrase on the flag.

Shawn Parker, executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, said religious Mississippians are likely to welcome its presence on the state banner.

“As a whole, Mississippi Baptists would be pleased with the presence of ‘In God We Trust’ on the flag, and would consider it a fair representation of who we are as a state in Mississippi,” said Parker.

His group pushed the Legislature to remove the Confederate symbol from the flag in June.

He also pointed to the state’s deeply religious nature.

“I think Mississippi, as a general rule, is characterized by religious convictions and a strong faith,” he said. “We have a large contingency of our population that, if they’re not involved in a local church on a regular basis, they at least understand they should be involved in a church on a regular basis. They recognize God’s reality.”

Voters will be asked to approve the new design in the Nov. 3 election. If they reject it, the commission will set a different design using the same guidelines for voters to decide later.

More from Beliefnet and our partners
previous posts

A Lebanese Catholic priest calls on believers around the world to pray for the people of his country following two explosions in Beirut that left dozens dead and thousands injured. “We ask your nation to carry Lebanon in its hearts at this difficult stage, and we place great trust in you and in your prayers, […]

Protesters burned an American flag and Bibles, sparking outrage as tensions continue to rise in Portland, Oregon. For more than 60 days, Black Lives Matter demonstrators, including a “Wall of Moms” and a “Wall of Vets,” have drawn national attention for clashing with federal agents in the city. Friday night’s demonstrations were mostly peaceful, which […]

Many school districts are opting to stay closed for the upcoming fall semester, but some churches are looking to open their doors to host remote learning students. Churches in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are hoping they can host small, socially distanced students during typical school hours. Coronavirus cases in North Carolina continue to spike, and schools […]

During a recent interview on “The Pod’s Honest Truth With David Brody,” Roger Stone shared that he has found Jesus and accepted him in his life, Just the News reports. “It doesn’t matter how grievous your sins may be, they can be washed away if you will simply accept Jesus Christ as your Savior,” the […]