- The Washington Times - Friday, August 25, 2017

An independent Catholic school in San Anselmo, California, has sparked the ire of some parents after officials removed and relocated a large number of religious statues, reportedly including those of Jesus and Mary, in order not to alienate children of other faiths.

Amy Skewes-Cox, who heads San Domenico School’s board of trustees, said at least 18 of the 180 religious icons still remain at the school as part of a plan approved unanimously by the board last year, the Marin Independent Journal reported.

Ms. Skewes-Cox said the timing of the statues’ removals and the national statue debate spurring from the unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, is an unfortunate coincidence and have “absolutely no connection other than it is change, and people have a hard time with change.”

“If you walk on the campus and the first thing you confront is three or four statues of St. Dominic or St. Francis, it could be alienating for that other religion, and we didn’t want to further that feeling,” she said.

Sister Maureen McInerney, prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, said the plan is to make the K-12 school more inviting to students of all faiths.

“San Domenico is a Catholic school; it also welcomes people of all faiths,” she told the Marin Independent Journal. “It is making an effort to be inclusive of all faiths.”

The school’s head, Cecily Stock, said she wants people to understand that the school is independent, and not owned or operated by a parish or religious order.

“San Domenico is both a Catholic school and an independent school,” she said, “But what we were finding after doing some research is that in the broader community we are known as being a Catholic school and are not necessarily known as an independent school. We want to make sure that prospective families are aware that we are an independent school.”

Kimberly Pinkson, director of marketing and communications, told Fox News that a “large number of religious statues” were recently relocated to other parts of the school’s campus and some were donated to “appreciative recipients.”

Ms. Pinkson said the statues were “temporarily stored in the downstairs of our library,” contrary to one parent’s complaint that the statues were “pitched in the basement,” the Marin Independent Journal reported.

Another parent, Shannon Fitzpatrick, recently sent an email to school officials accusing them of trying to erase the school’s 167-year tradition of celebrating the Dominican Catholic faith.

“In our time here, the word ‘Catholic’ has been removed from the mission statement, sacraments were removed from the curriculum, the lower school curriculum was changed to world religions, the logo and colors were changed to be ‘less Catholic,’ and the uniform was changed to be less Catholic,” she wrote.

Cheryl Newell, a mother of four San Domenico graduates, told the Marin Independent Journal, “I am extremely disappointed in the school and the direction they’ve been going. This isn’t a new thing that they’ve been intentionally eroding their Catholic heritage. They’re trying to be something for everyone and they’re making no one happy.”

Kim Pipki, whose daughter left San Domenico two years ago, said, “The one main statue that has everyone fired up is the baby Jesus and Mary one.

“It was at the center of the primary school courtyard,” she said.

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