The state Assembly will chime on a national political debate Thursday when it plans to vote on a resolution urging Congress to pass a bill removing all Confederate statues from the Capitol building.

“The monuments honoring the Confederacy have no place within the Capitol building or anywhere else in our society,” said Assemblyman Bill Moen, D-Camden, the sponsor of the legislation, AR178.

“The monuments that we keep in the United States Capitol are meant to reflect the ideals and the achievements of our nation throughout its history,” Moen said. “They’re not just valuable objects intended to preserve history. And characterizing statues as the only way to preserve history diminishes their meaning and their way of memorializing significant events and figures.”

There are 11 statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection that commemorate Confederate soldiers and officials. The U.S. House voted last week, 305-113, to have those statues and others associated with defending segregation removed from the Capitol. The bill isn’t likely to be taken up by the U.S. Senate.

When the bill was considered Monday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, three of the panel’s four Republicans abstained from the vote and Assemblyman Brian Bergen, R-Morris, was opposed.

“If we had issues with any specific statue that’s in the Capitol, I would have much preferred if we listed them by name and said specifically what the objections were to that individual person. I think that would have been a better approach,” Bergen said.

“Just to blanketly label anybody involved in the Confederacy at all as a person not worthy of a state putting them up in the Capitol I think is a little bit broad for me,” he said.

Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-Burlington, said they’d all be on such a list.

“I object to all Confederate statues on the nation’s Capitol grounds,” Conaway said. “I think it continues to send a rather dark message to the public that would elevate such characters on high. I think it’s wrong.”

The Senate, Assembly or both also intend to vote Thursday on bills that would:

  • End the use of the title "freeholder" for county legislators, in favor of "commissioner." The term freeholder dates to the 1700s and made only people who owned land free of any debts – white, male and wealthy – eligible to hold office.
  • Make Juneteenth Day a state and public holiday, celebrated on the third Friday in June. It marks the date, June 19, 1865, when a Union general informed slaves in Galveston, Texas, of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 that had freed them.
  • Urge Alabama to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge after the late U.S. Rep. .John Lewis, who suffered a fractured skull in the ‘Bloody Sunday’ voting rights march across the bridge in 1965. Pettus was a senior officer in the Confederate Army, represented Alabama in the U.S. Senate and was a grand dragon in the Ku Klux Klan.
  • Oppose the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s planned changes to its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which was designed to overcome historic patterns of segregation.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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