Disqualifying memorial sculpture smacks of hubris

Disqualifying memorial sculpture smacks of hubris

By Ellen Latane Tabb, Alexandria

To the editor:

Regarding the Freedmen’s Cemetery sculpture controversy: A card laid is a card played. After the final designs were chosen, I remembered that the public was asked to vote for the winner. It seems that only after sculptor Ed Dwight’s submission was chosen did the public art committee decide it was inappropriate. Is this instance another example of a few people telling the public that they know — better than the rest of us — what is right for our city?

If the religious symbols were not noticeable enough to disqualify the proposed statue originally, they should not be invoked now.

More to the point, why did city officials prohibit religious symbols on a sculpture meant for a cemetery? The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This part of the amendment is too rarely noted. Public cemeteries — funded by taxpayer monies, such as nearby Arlington National Cemetery — are full of marble crosses atop graves. But they also include religious symbols for other faiths.

City council should revoke its mistaken approval of the replacement statue based on the recommendations of the public art committee and honor the wishes of the residents who voted for Mr. Dwight’s sculpture.

Somebody surely owes Mr. Dwight a huge apology, regardless of the final outcome of this matter.