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ATLANTA – The Sons of Confederate Veterans blasted Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal's decision to erase Confederate Memorial Day and Robert E. Lee's birthday from the state's official calendar as a "disgraceful" act that amounts to erasing Georgia's Civil War history.

Tim Pilgrim, the group's leader, said Friday that said Deal's decision was an "act of dishonor." In an e-mail sent to state employees this week, the state replaced the names of both holidays with the more neutral term "state holiday."

" 'Sensitivity' has become the camouflage for censorship in modern America," Pilgrim said. Deal "has moved to strip the reasons for two of Georgia's most significant holidays without explanation. But the reason can certainly be inferred: It is the mistaken belief Georgia's history must be scrubbed in response to a criminal act in another state as an expression of sympathy."

That was a reference to the June 17 shooting at a black church in Charleston, S.C. Nine people were killed. The alleged shooter, suspected white supremacist Dylann Roof, later said that he had hoped to start a race war. South Carolina removed the Confederate battle flag from its Capitol grounds after the massacre.

Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said that most state workers will still get days off for both events. He added that "those so inclined can observe Confederate Memorial Day and remember those who died in that conflict."

Pilgrim said he believes Deal buckled to critics calling for Georgia to retreat from its embrace of Confederate symbols. "Georgia citizens and veterans should be outraged of this blatant act of disrespect to veterans who served their state and country honorably and with valor," he said.