By Taylor Boyd
A bill that recently passed the Virginia House of Delegates could hinder the J.E.B. Stuart Birthplace Preservation Trust Inc.’s ability to bring the statue and pedestal of Gen. JEB Stuart to Patrick County.
The organization filed an unofficial application with the Richmond City Council earlier this year to obtain the statue and pedestal for display at Stuart’s birthplace.
An official application was made in early September, according to Ronnie Haynes, president of the organization.
Haynes said he does not expect the bill to interfere with the trust’s ability to receive the statue and pedestal.
However, Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill, said the proposed bill could deny the organization’s request if it is approved before the council makes its decision on the request.
Poindexter said he voted against the bill for three main reasons.
The first is because it would remove the requirement of a local governing body to post a notice and hold a public hearing before a statue or monument is removed, he said.
“It removes any meaningful public participation and transparency between the government and the public,” Poindexter said. He added the bill would mean the government does not need to notify the public of its wish to remove a monument in their region, or seek public input.
The bill also states that monuments and statues can be altered in any fashion, but it does not define what that could mean or impose limits of alterations.
Poindexter said that lack of definition is especially concerning. For instance, he said an alteration “could be anything. It could be an ANTIFA label on a WWII memorial. It’s not all about tearing down Confederate monuments.”
Poindexter’s third objection is because the proposal also removes the requirement for local governments to offer memorials and statues to historical organizations, museums, and battlefields.
If approved, this could potentially allow for local governments to destroy historical items without first giving organizations an opportunity to take them.
Poindexter said the bill gives local governing bodies too much power over these types of issues.
“This bill is also going to be divisive. It’s going to create anger, it’s going to create resentment, it’s not going to create healing,” he said. “It doesn’t just affect Civil War monuments, but every war going back to the Algonquin War of 1622. You’re destroying the history of Virginia and the United States.”
Poindexter said he believes the bill will be controversial in the Senate, and does not know whether it will pass.
If it does pass and is signed into law, “it will most likely go into effect on Jan. 1.”
The bill is currently in a special session being held by the Committee on Local Government.