Robert E. Lee plaques permanently removed from Bay Ridge church’s property

Two plaques honoring Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee are no longer affixed to a tree on the property of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Bay Ridge on Wednesday, August 16, due to efforts by Salam Arabic Lutheran Church Pastor Reverend Khader El-Yateem and Episcopal Diocese of Long Island officials.

A 1912 plaque located on the lawn of the church (on the corner of 99th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway) that memorializes a tree planted by Robert E. Lee during his service at Fort Hamilton was sawed off at its stakes and removed, along with a smaller plaque installed in 1935. The removal comes less than 24 hours after El-Yateem called on the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, which still manages the property, although the church itself has been closed since 2015.

“It became very clear to all of us that the oppressive nature of a time in our history that needs to be righted should be removed from church property. No one should walk by here — particularly members of the African-American community, ancestors of those who were the victims of slavery — and be reminded of this past,” said Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.

“In the sense that the church can stand for all of God’s people and stand for the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will remove this sign as one of the many outward invisible expressions of our solidarity with God’s people, particularly those who’re feeling oppressed by the actions of White Supremacy and the Neo-Nazi movement and its support across this nation,” continued Provenzano.

Provenzano noted that the plaques, which were installed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, would not be destroyed, but would be preserved in the Diocese’s archive.

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