The Satanic Temple is warning Mississippi that it will pursue a lawsuit against the state if it puts the phrase “In God We Trust” on its flag, as is currently planned.
Late last month, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed legislation into law retiring the state flag, which had featured the Confederate flag symbol for more than 120 years.
The move came amid a nationwide push to remove symbols of the Civil War-era pro-slavery cause as widespread protests against racial inequality and police brutality continued across the country, ignited by the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and more Black Americans.
Under the law, a commission will be appointed to create a new design for the flag that will be voted on during a special election in the state in November. The new design is not allowed to feature the Confederate flag and must include the phrase "In God We Trust."
In a recent letter to Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch (R), an attorney writing on behalf of the Satanic Temple first commended the state for first taking “the very positive step of removing the Confederate battle flag from the Mississippi state flag.”
However, the group added that “removing one divisive symbol of exclusion only to replace it with a divisive phrase of exclusion does not eliminate exclusion, but rather moves it from one group to a collection of others.”
The group went on to suggest that if the state “is going to place a religious phrase on its flag, it should include reference to Satan,” saying the seven tenets of the Satanic Temple, which include striving to act with compassion and call for the freedoms of others to be respected, seem more consistent with the state’s values than the Ten Commandments.
“On the other hand, we can imagine that there would be some Mississippians who would be a bit put off by the words ‘In Satan we Trust’ on the state flag,” the letter continued. “If you can imagine that, then you might imagine how atheists, Satanists, and other people of nontheistic faiths could feel excluded by the addition of ‘In God we Trust’ to the state flag.
"We trust that you will take our request under advisement," the group said. "However, should the state of Mississippi insist on placing this exclusionary religious phrase on its flag, we do intend to file suit and seek injunctive relief against this act."
While the group acknowledged a past court ruling in a similar case in which it was noted that the Supreme Court had determined the national motto’s inclusion on currency “does not infringe on First Amendment rights,” the group said it believed its case would be “distinguishable” and warned it would “move forward with that understanding.”