Rutherford County clergy calling for removal of Confederate monument outside courthouse

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RUTHERFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WSPA) – There’s a fresh push to remove a Confederate monument in North Carolina. But this time, it’s being lead by religious leaders in Rutherford County.

The monument is located just feet away from the Rutherford County Courthouse. It was placed there by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the early 1900’s but now, there is a petition to take it down.

Shadows of the past casting over the pillars of the Rutherford County Courthouse.

“We were a divided part of the country, we did not all support the Confederacy,” said All Souls Community Church Preacher, Rev. Pat Jobe.

It’s a sight Rev. Pat Jobe has seen his whole life. But he wants that to change.

“Memorializing the Confederacy, romanticizing the Confederacy is very offensive not only to African Americans but all of us who care about equality, and justice and that sort of thing,” Rev. Jobe said.

He’s just one of more than a dozen religious leaders in the county who have signed a petition to take it down.

“We are people of faith and we believe firmly that we should be protecting all voices, and that not every religious voice is saying they need to keep this statue, especially as an image of oppression in our community,” said Salem United Methodist Church Preacher, Rev. Samuel Burleson.

One that Rev. Samuel Burleson fully supports. In fact, he has brought it to the attention of county leaders.

“What we want to do is take this out from a space where it’s projecting a value and drop it into a space that would be more historically grounded,” Burleson told 7 News.

However, not everyone in town is on board. During Monday night’s county council meeting, a handful of residents expressed opposition. Asking for the statue to stay.

But there’s also support for this petition from community members like R.J. Aiken.

“Whether that be cutting off the top and commemorating the soldiers that have fallen and dedicated their lives in order to letting it stay here, or removing it to a location where we can preserve the history,” said Rutherford County Community Activist, R.J. Aiken.

Relocating or renovating, Aiken told us any of those options would do. Adding, his focus like that of the clergy pushing for change, bring people together and love one another.

No official discussion has been issued yet by county leaders regarding this monument. Rutherford County Manager, Steve Garrison told 7 News, “staff are currently proactively performing due diligence by working in tangent with County Historians to determine the history of the installation of the Confederate monument erected in front of the Rutherford County courthouse, the actual ownership of the monument (the State of NC, United Daughters of the Confederacy or Rutherford County government?) and what local ordinances, North Carolina General Statutes or other applicable laws permit or may prohibit or limit the removal of a monument on County property.”

You can find additional information on the monument from the county manager below:

“There has been no official discussion among the Commissioners or directives issued. However, staff are currently proactively performing due diligence by working in tangent with County Historians to determine the history of the installation of the Confederate monument erected in front of the Rutherford County courthouse, the actual ownership of the monument (the State of NC, United Daughters of the Confederacy or Rutherford County government?) and what local ordinances, North Carolina General Statutes or other applicable laws permit or may prohibit or limit the removal of a monument on County property. A North Carolina law (NCGS § 100-2.1) adopted in 2015 requires that “objects of remembrance” on public property cannot be removed or relocated except in certain circumstances. We are aware that there are other local governments in North Carolina that have tested, or are testing, the strength of the law passed in 2015 declaring that they did not actually own the monuments and, therefore, were not bound by the restrictions noted in the applicable general statute. We are also aware that some local governments that have taken this path (e.g., Winston-Salem, Chatham County) are now tied up in lawsuits with the United Daughters of the Confederacy over this issue. The statute allows for some exceptions such as there is a threat of public safety, in certain cases where the monument on public property is privately-owned and/or when the monument is a State historic highway marker. Going forward, the County will continue to monitor the actions taken by other local governments across the state to see what precedence and caselaw is established and we will continue to perform our due diligence to determine ownership of the monument and what actions to relocate the monument are legally permissible and defensible.”

Additionally, you can see the full petition brought to county leaders by clicking on the link below:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1l92R9IHsfHQqs1ThXjZIo70ErtTSblTrrph–Ffcrww/edit?fbclid=IwAR2fFExHsYc9cdPjiIcVwIMQiAnfDZQRg9xBdzfi4YRkOySPvqcgPuEsUfA

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