George Washington’s church announces memorials coming down

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A church where George Washington, the nation’s first president, attended for over twenty years announced this week that they will be removing a memorial in his honor, as it’s too offensive and scaring away new members.

When the Christ Church in Alexandria first opened in 1773, Washington was one of the founding members, and purchased pew No. 5, where his family always came to worship. A metal marker on the Washington family pew notes its significance.

Robert E. Lee was another famous member of the church, and a marker is also posted in the location of the church where he was confirmed.

Currently, simple stone memorials stand on either side of the alter in the church, honoring Washington and Lee. The memorials are engraved with gold lettering that say, “In memory of George Washington.” and “In memory of Robert Edward Lee.” Those plaques are now coming down, church officials have announced.

Church leaders explained, “The plaques in our sanctuary make some in our presence feel unsafe or unwelcome. Some visitors and guests who worship with us choose not to return because they receive an unintended message from the prominent presence of the plaques.”

The Washington Times reported that George Washington contributed to the church throughout his life, and his family even donated one of his Bibles to the church after his death.

Robert E. Lee first attended the church when he was three years old, and his daughter, Mary Curtis Lee, left a $10,000 gift to the church upon her death in 1918.

However, a church committee voted unanimously to remove the memorials to the two historic members, because they were once slave owners.

“Because the sanctuary is a worship space, not a museum, there is no appropriate way to inform visitors about the history of the plaques or to provide additional context except for the in-person tours provided by our docents,” church leaders said.

In their letter to parishioners the church’s leadership praised Washington as “the visionary who not only refused to be king but also gave up power after eight years, and a symbol of our democracy.” Lee, meanwhile, was described in less glowing terms, as a longtime parishioner who for some “symbolizes the attempt to overthrow the Union and to preserve slavery.”

“Today our country is trying once again to come to grips with the history of slavery and the subsequent disenfranchisement of people of color,” the leaders wrote.

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