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The outside steps of the capitol building
Christian minister Jason Coker, a native of Shaw, Miss., is looking for other white religious leaders to break their silence and stand up against House Bill 1020 and the revised Capital City Improvement District. “Stand with me and ask our elected officials to pass policy that creates a better future for all Mississippians,” he writes. Photo by Kayode Crown

Interfaith Leaders Holding Prayer Vigil in Capitol Rotunda on House Bill 1020

JACKSON, Miss.—This week, Mississippi House and Senate negotiators are facing major decisions that could have lasting effects on Jackson, Miss., and its relationship with the state government. We write to express our strong opposition to any legislation that will partition Jackson along racial and economic lines, or strip Jacksonians of constitutional rights other Mississippians hold. Given the lack of transparency to date, we believe it is imperative that conference committee deliberations be held in full view of the public.  

As representatives of different faith traditions, we are no strangers to division and disagreement. Despite our varied theological positions, our shared ethical convictions call us to stand united as Mississippians who believe working together across religious, racial, partisan and geographic divides makes all of us stronger.  

We lament how contentious debates during this legislative session about Jackson’s future illustrated these divides and an unwillingness to reason together in good faith. White Republican legislators from other parts of the state have advanced harmful bills related to Jackson without support from the mostly Black and Democratic Jackson/Hinds County delegation, and whatever good-faith efforts made to amend these bills, suspicion and mistrust have clouded them. 

A gathering of faith leaders and others standing outside of a church with signs that say Working Together MIssissippi (HB 1020)
On Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, a diverse coalition of faith leaders from Working Together Mississippi gathered on the steps of St. Peter’s Cathedral in downtown Jackson to call upon the Legislature to extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers. Hours later, House Speaker Phillip Gunn said he would not prevent extension of postpartum Medicaid coverage for Mississippi mothers. The Legislature passed it on March 7, 2023. Photo by Working Together Mississippi

No matter what happens in the final days of this legislative session, the breach between the state and its capital city has widened, to the detriment of all Mississippians.  

Because Mississippi’s future prosperity depends on the success of Jackson, we encourage state leaders to put aside racial, class and partisan bias, seek solutions emerging from all Jacksonians—especially the most vulnerable citizens—while putting your respective faith traditions and moral principles into action.  

To that end, we believe the conference-committee proceedings must be transparent and public, and conferees must honor these principles:  

  • Jacksonians should not be deprived of democratic rights afforded to citizens of other municipalities, including the election of local judges and prosecutors.  
  • State government should not divide Jackson along racial or socioeconomic boundaries.  
  • All law-enforcement agencies must be accountable to local authorities and the community.  
  • State government should invest in Jackson without dismantling its civic assets. 

We will gather with other faith leaders in the Capitol rotunda at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 24, 2023, to pray for our leaders to honor these principles.  


Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz D.D., Catholic Diocese of Jackson  

Bishop Brian R. Seage, Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi 

Bishop Stafford Wicker, 8th Episcopal Diocese, African Methodist Episcopal Church

President Dr. Reginald M. Buckley, General Missionary Baptist State, Convention of Mississippi 

Bishop Glake Hill, Jr., Presiding Prelate, South Central Diocese, Church of Christ (Holiness) USA

Bishop Sharma D. Lewis, Mississippi Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church

Bishop Daniel Littleton, Prelate of the Mississippi Southern First Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction  

Church Of God In Christ  

Bishop Ronnie Crudup Sr., Mid-South Diocese, Fellowship of International Churches  

Rev. Dr. Nadine Burton, Executive Regional Minister, Great River Region of the Christian Church  

Dr. CJ Rhodes, Third Vice President, General Missionary Baptist State Convention of Mississippi

Timothy F. Bourne, Pastor, Beulah Grove Church, State Overseer of the MS Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship  

Emad Al Turk, Co-founder/Chairman Emeritus, International Museum of Muslim Cultures

Imam Dr. Ameen Abdur Rashied, Resident Imam, Masjid Muhammad of Jackson  

Okolo Rashid, Executive Director/CEO and Co-founder, International Museum of Muslim Cultures, Jackson Residents for a Beloved Community 

Rabbi Debra Kassoff, Hebrew Union Congregation, Greenville  

Pastor Hosea J. Hines, Christ Tabernacle Church, Jackson National Leader, A New Day Coalition Equity for Black America

Rev. Joel L. Alvis, Jr., Ph.D., Interim Pastor, Fondren Presbyterian Church, Jackson  

Rev. Msgr. Elvin Sunds, Faith in Action Team, Catholic Diocese of Jackson  

Rev. Maxine Bolden, Chaplain, Tougaloo College, United Methodist Elder

Rev. Horace McMillion, Moderator, Gulf States Mennonite Conference 

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Journalism and Education Group, the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an opinion for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and sources fact-checking the included information to We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

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