Guardians of American History announces today that it co-signed a Regulatory Response Letter with other historic preservation groups opposing the planned removal of the Sir Moses Ezekiel "Reconciliation" Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery by the US Secretary of Defense and the US Army.
The sixteen-page letter was submitted on Saturday, September 2, 2023, to Ms. Renea Yates, Director, Office of Army Cemeteries in response to the Army's Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and Initiate Section 106 Public Consultation Regarding Removal of the Confederate Memorial from Arlington National Cemetery 88 Fed. Reg. 51786 (August 4, 2023).
The Letter was organized by Defend Arlington, a group that has been spearheading the effort to halt Secretary Lloyd Austin's decision to accept the recommendation in the Naming Commission's 3rd report.
The Letter informs the Army that they:
must not take additional actions to remove the Memorial until [certain] important legal and procedural requirements are met.
The Letter reminds the Army that their effort to comply with the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Protection Act cannot be conducted "after the fact" and that:
the triggering action was the Secretary’s decision to order the implementation of the Naming Commission’s recommendations which included the removal of the Memorial from Arlington National Cemetery, including the designation of federal funds to undertake the removal action.
Guardians oppose the planned removal for multiple reasons, not the least of which is the apparent two-tier enforcement of Federal laws enacted to protect National Register Historic Districts like Arlington National Cemetery.
In this case, a rushed after-the-fact pseudo-regulatory review is being contrived to accommodate a non-applicable deadline, while a new tram stop at the Cemetery takes years to be evaluated for regulatory compliance.
Additionally, the 2021 NDAA Section 370 exempts this recommendation from implementation as the Memorial meets the "Grave Marker" definition; public comment was not obtained before Secretary Austin decided to implement the recommendation; and the intent of the law was "re-naming" not "removal".
Finally, the removal of this Memorial, in our Nation's only national military cemetery with National Register status is a slap in the face of more than a century of Federal policy supporting the preservation of American historic landmarks.
If this removal is not stopped, either by Congress, the Court, or reconsidered by Secretary Austin himself, it will send a chilling message that the long-standing policy of the United States government to protect our Nation's historic landmarks has been nullified and that non-elected government officials need not respect the Federal law.