The Washington National Cathedral has announced the immediate removal of two stained glass windows featuring Confederate leaders Robert Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
The windows were installed in 1953 and donated by the organisation United Daughters of the Confederacy, reports Efe news.
Washington episcopal leaders in a statement on Wednesday said that “these windows are not only inconsistent with our current mission to serve as a house of prayer for all people, but also a barrier to our important work on racial justice and racial reconciliation”.
The statement said that the debate over the future of the windows began two years ago, after Dylann Roof, a young white supremacist, murdered nine African-American worshippers in a church in Charleston, South Carolina.
The violence that erupted last month around white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which a woman was killed, “brought urgency to the discernment process”.
“Their association with racial oppression, human subjugation and white supremacy does not belong in the sacred fabric of this Cathedral,” the statement added, referring to Lee and Jackson.
The Confederacy was composed of 11 southern states which seceded from the rest of the US between 1861 and 1865 over the issue of slavery.
The separation led to a civil war between the southern Confederacy and the northern Union, from 1861 to 1865, in which more than 600,000 Americans died.
The church shooting in South Carolina in 2015 and the recent violence in Charlottesville has sparked a national debate about Confederate symbols and monuments still present in public places throughout the country, predominantly in the South.