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Calloway Faith Leaders Petition: Remove Lee Statue
By West Kentucky Star Staff
MURRAY - A petition has begun gathering names of church leaders and others in the faith community of Calloway County, asking that the Confederate statue be removed from the Murray court square.

The Google document included the names of almost fifty people by Saturday afternoon. They range from laymen and laywomen to ministers, elders, teachers, business owners and judges. 

Those who have added their names agree that the issue regarding the statue of Robert E. Lee is not a political issue, but a human one. They say their faith leads them to "resist evil, do no harm, and uphold the dignity and value of all people, because all are made in the image of God." Those principles, along with the words of the founding fathers that all men are created equal, are said to be in sharp contrast with the consistent witness of black people that Confederate symbols are received as a celebration of racism and hatred. 

The petition asks for the statue to be moved to another location, and refers to previous suggestions that it be placed in Bowman Cemetery or Fort Heiman. While they acknowledge that this act alone will not properly address the problem of racism, it is a step in the right direction. They urge everyone in the community to engage in peaceful dialogue, and challenge faith communities to be a safe place where everyone can learn about racism and how it is expressed in explicit and implicit ways. 

The document asks for elected officials to lead justly through this season, so that Calloway County will communicate - in words and in deeds - what a friendly community everyone believes it is.

Last month, the Calloway County Fiscal Court voted to keep the statue on the courthouse lawn, for now. That followed a unanimously-passed resolution by the Murray City Council in June asking that the Fiscal Court move the statue.

On July 15, Judge Executive Kenny Imes said, "That doesn't mean we're over and done with here, it's just stating where we are at this time. As things progress between the two different sides, the court would provide ample opportunity to have reasonable and fair public discussions."

The Fiscal Court says the J.N. Williams Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy owns the monument. The court said that if the Daughters of the Confederacy decide to move the monument at some point, the court will provide assistance.



Here is the complete text of the petition:

Fellow residents and friends of Calloway County, we offer this witness as pastors and faith leaders in our community.  Acknowledging the high esteem in which the town of Murray and Calloway County have been held for our friendliness, we pray that we will continue to embrace and exude that attribute as we work together for the welfare of our community, even as we go through moments of tense disagreement on certain matters of importance. This message pertains to the controversy and divisiveness in our town and county surrounding the statue imaging Robert E. Lee on the Court Square, and also to the deeper issue related to it. We do not believe this to be a partisan/political issue at its core, but a human one.

We offer our voices from a place of peace, grace, and desiring what we believe is in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ and for the betterment of our beloved community. When we were baptized into Christ and made our professions of faith, we publicly aligned ourselves with Jesus of Nazareth, who was anointed by the Holy Spirit in his ministry to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and liberation for the oppressed. With God’s help, we believe it is our role as followers of Jesus and faith leaders in particular to resist evil, do no harm, and uphold the dignity and value of all people, because all are made in the image of God. This calls us to go deeper than what is often inscribed on the surfaces of historical objects, which often highlight the positive attributes worthy of honor, memory, and love, such as the laudable sentiment expressing “loving remembrance” on the statue in downtown Murray. 

Still, we seek to go deeper so that we might learn by listening and seeing the harm that has been done and continues to be inflicted upon persons of color from symbols like Confederate flags and monuments. The consistent witness from our black neighbors is that these symbols are received as the celebration of racism and hatred. We cannot promote the message that “all men are created equal,” a central tenet to the founding of our great nation, while continuing to hoist a symbol that reveres a movement which fought to undermine that very idea.

Therefore, it is our conviction as leaders in the faith community that the Confederate statue would be better suited at another location than its current placement on the Court Square. Well-reasoned cases have been put forth for its relocation to the Bowman cemetery or on the grounds of Fort Heiman, where both the historical significance and loving memorial could be maintained. Meanwhile, we also acknowledge that even if the statue is removed or relocated, this is far from sufficiently addressing the problem of racism. Combating racism is more than setting (or re-setting) symbols within their appropriate contexts, even though we believe doing so is a step in the right direction. This can’t be merely a box to be checked so that we can move on. The path toward racial justice, equity, and equality is arduous and calls us to come to terms with the sins of our ancestors even as we seek to appropriately remember their virtues. We admit that many of us are just getting started in this journey.

We call for peaceful dialogue in our community and we challenge our communities of faith to offer safe spaces in which we can learn together about racism and how it is expressed both in explicit and implicit ways. We call on our community leaders to hear the concerns of those who less than a lifetime ago would not have been permitted to partake of the water fountain at the base of the monument. Furthermore, we ask these leaders to respond and lead justly in such a way that we are communicating by our actions as well as our words that we truly are the friendly community we long to be, where all are welcome in the peaceful pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. And may all people of faith do our part in living into God’s expectation that we “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.”
 

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Published 02:39 PM, Saturday Aug. 08, 2020
Updated 05:06 AM, Monday Aug. 10, 2020

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