“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”. – George Orwell, 1984
The Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday said it will remove stained glass windows honoring Confederate generals, saying they act as “a barrier to our important work on racial justice and racial reconciliation.”
In a statement, Cathedral leaders said they’ve debated for two years whether to remove the windows honoring Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. That debate concluded Tuesday, and the Cathedral Chapter voted to remove them.
“Whatever their origins, we recognize that these windows are more than benign historical markers. For many of God’s children, they are an obstacle to worship in a sacred space; for some, these and other Confederate memorials serve as lampposts along a path that leads back to racial subjugation and oppression,” the Cathedral said in a statement, signed by Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of the Washington National Cathedral; and John Donoghue, chair of the Cathedral Chapter.
“The recent violence in Charlottesville brought urgency to our discernment process. We find ourselves compelled by the witness of others, moved by the presence of God in our midst and convicted that the Holy Spirit is pointing us toward the answer,” they continued. “The continued presence of white supremacy, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate in our nation cannot be ignored — nor will they be solved simply by removing these windows or other monuments. The racial wounds that we have seen across our nation compel us to renew our commitment to building God’s beloved community.”
The decision comes as other governments, institutions and universities debate whether to remove statues, memorials and other objects honoring key figures in the Confederacy. The issue was thrust into the spotlight following last month’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., which was ostensibly organized to protest the removal of a statue of Gen. Lee.
Charlottesville Council Votes to Remove Confederate Statue After Tense Hearing
The City Council in Charlottesville, Virginia, voted Tuesday night to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson from a park after a public hearing punctuated by protests and chants of “Let her speak.”
By voice vote, the council voted after 11 p.m. ET to ask a design firm to redesign Emancipation Park, where the Jackson statue stands — effectively ordering its removal once all court cases are resolved.
The vote would also expedite the relocation of a statue of another Confederate general, Robert E. Lee, that was at the center of a white nationalist demonstration in mid-August that led to the death of a woman after a car plowed into a group of anti-protesters.
Charlottesville City Council Meeting Interrupted Before Statue Vote1:01
The vote proceeded without incident — a sharp contrast from the public hearing earlier in the evening, when the council cut off a woman who was seeking to speak about the resolution during other business.
Much of the first two hours of the meeting was dotted with further interruptions from audience members seeking to return to the topic of the Aug. 12 protests, in which 19 other people were also injured.
The City Council last month agreed to consider a resolution to remove and relocate the Jackson statue and the one honoring Lee, which was at the center of the Aug. 12 protests.
The resolution wasn’t due to come up until late in the evening, after discussion and public comment on other topics. It calls for removal of the Jackson statue “pending court decisions and/or changes in the Virginia Code,” which includes a provision prohibiting removing certain war memorials.
As offered by Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy, the resolution noted that the monuments were erected several decades after the Civil War ended, calling them “20th Century testaments to a fictionalized, glorified narrative of the rightness of the Southern cause in that war, when the actual cause was an insurrection against the United States of America promoting the right of southern states to perpetuate the institution of slavery.”
The City Council voted 3-2 in February to take down the Lee statue in Lee Park, but the city was sued in March to prevent the removal.
Bob Fenwick, a City Council member who voted for the motion, said the Jackson and Lee monuments “should be in a museum.”
“If people stop and think, we have no statues, that I know of, to George Washington in Charlottesville, and yet none of us have forgotten his history,” Fenwick told NBC affiliate WVIR. “So this argument that we have to keep it to preserve history, to me, is irrelevant.”
Aug. 23: Robert E. Lee Statue Covered in Charlottesville1:14
Both statues were covered in black tarpaulins last month as a symbol of mourning for Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed at the Aug. 12 rally.
Heyer was among the group of counter-protesters at that demonstration where white supremacists, white nationalists and other members of the far right convened to protest the decision to remove the Lee statue.