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A Catholic school in California is bracing itself in the face of major backlash after it removed some “alienating” religious statues.

The head of the San Domenico School indicated that parents of prospective students expressed concern about several statues when they toured the campus. Therefore, a large number of the school’s religious statues were recently relocated to other parts of the campus while others were donated to “appreciative recipients.”

“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,” Amy Skewes-Cox, who chairs the school’s board of trustees, said.

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The decision to remove and relocate the statues was in effort to further the school’s “167-year tradition of inclusive education” as the number of students who identify as Catholic has continued to decrease. Only around 18 of the school’s 180 religious icons now remain on school grounds. Their removal and relocation come just after the violence in Charlottesville, but are not connected to that incident.

“Articulating an inclusive foundation appears to mean letting go of San Domenico’s 167-year tradition as a Dominican Catholic school and being both afraid and ashamed to celebrate one’s heritage and beliefs,” Shannon Fitzpatrick, whose son attends the school, criticized the decision. “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.”

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