GOP officials in Mississippi on Wednesday proposed replacing the state flag's Confederate battle emblem with the words “In God We Trust,” a call that comes amid nationwide protests over racial injustice.
Attorney General Lynn Fitch said changing the state flag would reflect the “love, compassion and conviction of our people."
"The addition of 'In God We Trust' from our state seal is the perfect way to demonstrate to all who we are," Fitch added.
Mississippi has the only state flag with a Confederate emblem.
The call to change the flag’s design comes as Confederate monuments and statues recalling past slavery have been toppled by protesters or deliberately removed by authorities in recent weeks amid a groundswell against racial inequities.
Mississippi Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said a new flag would help future generations.
"In my mind, our flag should bear the Seal of the Great State of Mississippi and state 'In God We Trust,'" Hosemann said. " I am open to bringing all citizens together to determine a banner for our future."
Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has said any changes to the state flag should be decided by the people in a statewide election.
Legislative Black Caucus members say lawmakers should remove the Confederate emblem because another statewide flag vote would be bitter.
"The emotional distress that the current flag perpetuates on people of color extends throughout the United States, casting us and having people to claim that we are backwater and retrograde," said the caucus chairwoman, Democratic Sen. Angela Turner Ford of West Point.
Another Republican statewide elected official, Auditor Shad White, said Mississippi needs a flag "that is more unifying than the one we have now."
"If there were a vote to remove the Confederate imagery from our flag, I would vote to remove it," White said Wednesday.
Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville is among those saying Mississippi should keep its flag and people should resist efforts to remove historical monuments.
"Whether you acknowledge it or not, the American Left is waging war against us," McDaniel said Tuesday on Facebook. "They consider the founding to be illegitimate, our history to be tainted, and our republic as inherently evil. They will not stop."
In a newspaper ad funded by the state chamber of commerce, dozens of business executives said Wednesday that the Confederate battle emblem needs to be removed from Mississippi's flag because it "perpetuates negative stereotypes of our state."
The chamber, called the Mississippi Economic Council, said for years that Mississippi should change its flag. The group said a new flag without Confederate images would boost economic opportunities and improve the quality of life.
"The current flag is harmful to Mississippi's image and reputation for those outside our state and is hurtful to many Mississippians," the group said in the ad published in the Clarion-Ledger.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.