A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi [website] on Thursday dismissed [opinion, PDF] a challenge to the constitutionality of the Mississippi state flag. In his opinion, Judge Carlton Reeves noted that the flag, which prominently features the Confederate battle emblem, was adopted in 1894 and survived a 2001 referendum to redesign it. Carlos Moore, the attorney who brought the case, claimed that the Confederate imagery of the state flag violated the Equal Protection and Privileges and Immunities Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The injuries cited by Moore included physical and emotional responses elicited by the emblem. While the judge condemned the Confederate badge, he ruled that, “the injuries alleged by Moore are untethered to any legal right.” Reeves wrote that while the judiciary could not remedy the injuries suffered in this case, perhaps “‘the people themselves'” could act to change the flag. He concluded by stating that the emblem is “better left retired to history.”
Debate has intensified in the past year over the acceptability of confederate symbols in everyday life. In August 2015 a judge in Texas denied a request for a temporary restraining order to halt the University of Texas at Austin from relocating a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis [JURIST report]. In July it came to light that Dylann Roof, who is charged with the murder of nine black church members in South Carolina [JURIST report], prominently posed [NYT report] with the confederate flag. Also in July South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from the state house [JURIST report]. Although the Charleston shooting led to renewed focus on the use of the Confederate flag, controversy over the flag has persisted for years. In June of last year the US Supreme Court ruled that state governments can restrict [JURIST report] the kinds of messages printed on specialty license plates after the Sons of Confederate Veterans argued that the Texas government’s refusal to issue specialty license plates including an image of the confederate flag violated the First Amendment. In 2008 a federal court affirmed [JURIST report] a district court’s grant of summary judgment to a Tennessee public high school in a lawsuit brought by three students who claimed the school’s ban on wearing the Confederate flag was unconstitutional.