House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., today to order an immediate halt to a new practice of removing references to God from the official certificates that accompany U.S. flags flown over the Capitol.
The acting architect of the Capitol is enforcing a rule enacted by his predecessor, reportedly designed to prevent some Americans from being offended.
In one case, Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., was asked to secure a flag in honor of a World War II veteran’s 81st birthday. Her constituent requested that the certificate of authenticity state: “This flag was flown for Mr. [John Doe] on the occasion of his 81st birthday, the eleventh day of July, in the year of our Lord, 2007. Thank you, Grandpa, for showing me what it is to be a true patriot – to love God, family, and country. We love you!”
The certificate accompanied the flag when it arrived at her office, but it had been edited of any reference to “God” or “our Lord.”
In his letter, Boehner calls for full restoration of the longstanding congressional tradition of using the word God in such certificates upon request.
An estimated 100,000 flags are requested each year.
“The American people have grown weary of endless attempts by politicians and bureaucrats to bar the word God and even the most tacit references to faith from our public institutions,” Boehner said. “We are ‘One Nation Under God,’ and the rules and procedures of our national legislature should continue to reflect it.”
Boehner said the policy “does not reflect the will of the American people.”
“It was not applied in this manner under previous House majorities,” he said. “And those of us who serve in the current Congress should not allow it to stand.”
Boehner told Pelosi the “easy solution” that with her authority as speaker, she instruct the acting architect “to disregard the written policy and restore the longstanding practices that have been the tradition of the House for generations.”
“This would be the right thing to do,” Boehner said. “As Speaker, you have the authority – and the opportunity – to do the right thing.”
‘Religious expressions are not permitted’
The censorship was imposed by order of Alan Hantman, who served as the architect of the Capitol until earlier this year. He issued a memo Jan. 12, just a few weeks before he left office and just about the time Democrats took the majority position in both the House and Senate, that specified procedures for the flag program.
Buried in the fine print of the two-page list of instructions is the warning, “Keep in mind, political and/or religious expressions are not permitted on the flag certificate.”
The acting supervisor who replaced Hantman, Stephen Ayers, was confronted by a group of Congress members, but he declined to provide a clear justification of his authority to censor religious references.
“According to … Musgrave, our nation’s legislators are now prohibited from using references to God in certificates of authenticity accompanying flags flown over the Capitol and bought by constituents,” said a news alert from the American Family Association.
“Architect of the Capitol Steven Ayers said he has removed the words because reference to God and the Lord may offend some Americans,” the organization said.
The censorship appears to fall into line with trends at other historic government sites in the U.S., such as the Jamestown settlement, which celebrated its 400th anniversary this year.
In Jamestown, a California pastor leading a group of visitors noted Christian artifacts were overlooked by a tour guide. When he asked about the replicas of the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer, “our guide responded … by saying that she was ‘unable to speak about the plaques. We are only allowed to say they are religious plaques.’”
Pastor Todd Dubord of Lake Almanor Community Church wrote, “While the tour guides at the Jamestown Settlement and Museum were cordial and informative on many points, we were all caught off guard by their unwillingness (yes, unwillingness) to discuss Jamestown’s religious roots. As one of the tour guides was leading us through the very heart of the replica of the community, the Anglican Church, we asked if she could speak about the significance of the three religious plaques on the wall in the front of the church: the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostles’ Creed (the same are in the Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg).”
WND also has reported similar efforts uncovered by DuBord to edit Christianity from references at the U.S. Supreme Court and Jefferson’s Monticello estate. At the Supreme Court, tour guides have described a representation of two stone tablets numbered 1-10 in Roman numerals as the “Ten Amendments.”
The Capitol’s flag program was begun in 1937 when a member of Congress asked for a flag that had flown over the Capitol, and requests now come in at the rate of about 100,000 per year.
Hantman, who served a 10-year appointment in the post, issued the rules that banned references to God, simply stating: “Please note the following rules and information when ordering flags to be flown over the United States Capitol:”
The rules specify the time frames, requirements for flags flown (they must be made in the United States) and other procedures.
“Once the flags are processed, you will receive the original certificate along with a copy of the certificate,” the outline provides.
U.S. Reps. Steve King, Michael R. Turner, Randy Neugebauer and Steve Pearce joined Musgrave in a letter of complaint to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“This is an abuse of power, plain and simple,” Neugebauer told the Washington Times. “Using the nonpartisan position of maintaining the Capitol to decide what citizens can have written on their flag certificates is unacceptable.”
Turner also reported his own experience with the censorshop. He said a constituent, Paul Larochelle, asked for a flag, because his son hoped to present the flag and certificate to his grandfather, an Army veteran.
Turner said the Larochelles wanted the certificate’s inscription to read, in part: “In honor of my grandfather, Marcel Larochelle, and his dedication and love of God, country and family.” But “God” was gone when the certificate arrived, Turner told the Washington Times.
Lawmakers now are asking Pelosi to review the authority for the rule “which censors our citizens’ right to expressions of their faith.”
The lawmakers’ letter said, “The architect’s policy is in direct conflict with his charge as well as the scope of his office and brings into question his ability to preserve a building containing many national religious symbols.”
Eva Malecki, a spokeswoman for the architect’s office, did not return a WND call asking for comment.
But the Capitol’s own website notes that among other statements of faith in the building are:
- “America! God shed his grace on Thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!” ?Katharine Lee Bates
- “In God we trust.”
- “Annuit coeptis” (God has favored our undertakings)
- “Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.” ?Psalm 16:1
- “Annuit coeptis” (God has favored our undertakings)
Hantman earned architecture and urban planning degrees in New York and served as vice president of facilities planning and architecture for the Rockefeller Center Management Corp. before moving to the Capitol.
He was appointed in 1997 and opted not to seek a second 10-year term, so Ayres became the acting architect and will serve until a new architect takes over.
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