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Gunn gets vote on confederate flag as church messenger

House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, who surprisingly broke with the majority of the state’s Republican leadership last summer when he endorsed changing the Mississippi flag, got to vote on the issue recently.

Gunn was a “messenger” for his church, Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, to the Southern Baptist Convention earlier this month.

At the St. Louis convention, a resolution was adopted that calls on “our brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ, including our African-American brothers and sisters.”

Gunn said, “I raised my hand” to vote for the resolution, which is not binding on the 46,000 individual churches and more than 15.8 million members of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. While not binding, officials said the vote for the resolution by a denomination originally formed to support slavery is significant.

When asked if he hopes to have success in the 2017 session passing a bill to change the controversial state flag, which includes the Confederate battle emblem as part of its design, Gunn said, “It is a conversation we will continue having. To do anything around here you must get 62 votes.”

Despite Gunn’s support, no legislation dealing with changing the flag made it out of committee to the floor of either chamber during the 2016 session.

Gunn originally made his comments about changing the flag this past summer after the tragicshooting death of nine people at an African American church in South Carolina allegedly by a white supremacist who touted the Confederate flag on social media.

When asked last year about changing the flag, Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who presides over the Senate, said the people had spoken overwhelming for the old flag during a 2001 statewide referendum. But after numerous universities, including the University of Mississippi in Oxford opted not to fly the flag, Bryant said he would like to see another statewide vote on the issue.

But that proposal also did not survive the 2016 legislative session.

The issue of the state flag, including the Confederate battle emblem as part of its design, has been a contentious issue in Mississippi for years. Some claim the Confederate battle emblem is a symbol of hate and oppression, while others say it is a symbol of their Southern heritage.

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