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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Challenge to Mississippi Flag

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from a Mississippi attorney who believes the state flag is an unconstitutional endorsement of white supremacy.

(CN) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from a Mississippi attorney who believes the state flag is an unconstitutional endorsement of white supremacy.

Carlos Moore said in his petition to the Supreme Court that the message of Mississippi’s flag, which features a Confederate battle emblem, has “always been one of racial hostility” and that the state’s continued use of the flag sends a message to its African-American citizens that they are second-class citizens. He added that the flag encourages and incites acts of racial violence.

Moore, who is African-American, filed suit on behalf of himself and his 7-year-old daughter under the Equal Protection Clause, seeking a declaration that the flag is unconstitutional.

Moore argued that his daughter is harmed by her exposure to the flag at public school and state laws requiring her to respect a flag that implicitly endorses a “demeaning message that she is inferior to her white classmates.”

He said his own exposure to the Mississippi flag has caused him to suffer physical effects, including hypertension, insomnia and heart abnormality.

To support his claim that the flag’s Confederate emblem incites racial violence, Moore pointed to incidents like the 2015 mass shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C., that killed nine African-Americans, and another incident that year at a Walmart in Mississippi, where a man set off an explosive to protest the store’s decision to stop selling Confederate-themed merchandise.

The Supreme Court justices did not comment on their rejection of Moore’s appeal.

In September 2016, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves dismissed Moore’s suit and the Fifth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s ruling in March, finding that he failed to adequately plead injury.

U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Higginson said in his opinion that the “gravamen of an equal protection claim is differential governmental treatment, not differential governmental messaging.”

Moore told Courthouse News on Monday that he was disappointed but not shocked by the decision of the nation’s highest court.

“I always knew that it would be a longshot, but I thought it was a fight worth fighting to the end,” Moore said. “I do believe that the flag will come down in my lifetime and I’m certain that it will come down in my daughter’s lifetime.”

Mississippians voted in a 2001 referendum to keep the flag the way it is, but Moore said that if it gets on the ballot again, the results are likely to be different because Mississippi is on its way to becoming a minority-majority state.

“My lawyer and I have also thought about seeing if there’s other litigation that could be filed with various plaintiffs ... but in the immediate future we’ll continue to press the legislature and the governor to change the flag or to put it on the ballot for another vote,” he said.

Moore thinks that Congress would likely outlaw the Confederate emblem faster than Mississippi lawmakers.

Moore, who ignored death threats as he brought his flag challenge through the courts, said he’s proud to have fought to make a better world for his daughter.

“She’ll look back on this all and she’ll see that her daddy never gave up,” Moore said. “We’ll be there together one day when the flag finally comes down.”

Moore was represented by Philadelphia-based attorney Michael T. Scott.

Categories / Appeals, Regional

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