Church's plan to move plaques honoring Washington and Lee draws fire

The decision to move plaques that memorialize Robert E. Lee and President George Washington inside an historic church, drew a political attack Tuesday.

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA - The decision to move plaques that memorialize Robert E. Lee and President George Washington inside an historic Alexandria church drew a political attack. 

Prince William County Chairman Corey Stewart blasted the decision by Christ Church to move those plaques out of the sanctuary. The church said some parishioners were distracted by the large plaques, which are displayed on the front wall on either side of the altar. 

When a reporter told Stewart the plaques are larger than the cross on the altar he said, "Then get a bigger cross." He called the church leaders' decision "despicable" and "ridiculous" and said, "We've got to stand up to this ridiculous political correctness that's infecting this country." 

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Stewart said the church must be controlled by the Democratic party, which he said has become the party of "criminals, the communists, the crack heads, and the weirdos.”

“Only a weirdo would start taking down monuments to our founding fathers,” he added.

Stewart said he predicted that once the "far left" started taking down Confederate monuments, they'd go after founding fathers.

"The next thing—and I would not be surprised to see this happen—is that they would take the name Christ off the name of this church," said Stewart.

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Rector Noelle York-Simmons said the decision was made because some parishioners find the plaques distracting. 

"I don't know Mr. Stewart; I don't know him personally. But, he sees this very differently than we do,” said York-Simmons. “What we are doing is creating a worship space where we can worship Christ more faithfully, without distraction. We are hoping to move the plaques. Not remove them. We are putting them where we can more fully understand our history and where we can more fully display it.”

Asked if he thought the church had a right to make its own decisions, Stewart said, "The very first amendment, the same amendment that gives this church the right to do whatever they want inside that church, but my right and our right as citizens is to condemn the church for dishonoring the father of our country in that way."

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But there are other memorials to both Lee and Washington in the church that date back a century. The church was built in 1773 and an entire pew block that the Washington family used remains intact. Anyone can sit where America’s first president once sat and prayed.

The Lee Family pew will also remain, along with Lee's confirmation plaque on the altar railing and both men's signatures on silver plaques at their family pews. A library filled with books about the church's history and two paintings of Washington and Lee are also on the grounds.  

"We couldn't change the history of the church if we tried. The history is as the history is. And it's a history we are very proud of," said York-Simmons. 

The Washington and Lee plaques are to remain in the sanctuary until a new place at the church complex can be determined.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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