U.S. Capitol

After public outcry and protest from House Republican leaders, officials at the U.S. Capitol reversed a policy that eliminated references to God from certificates for flags flown over the building.

Stephen T. Ayers, acting architect of the Capitol, said the change takes effect immediately.

“The Office of the Architect of the Capitol is a service organization,” said a statement from Ayers. “Flying the flags over the Capitol is an important constituent service for members of Congress. When one of our services or policies doesn’t effectively serve members of Congress or the American public, it needs to be changed immediately.”

The old rule said: “Personalized dedications are permitted, but limited to three hundred (300) characters. Please keep in mind, political and/or religious expressions are not permitted on the flag certificate.”

The new rule, posted today, includes only the first sentence limiting the length of the dedication.

Yesterday, House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to make a change in the policy being enforced by Ayers.

Ayers said the rule actually dates back to the 1970s, although it was not put in writing until recently. The most recent written instruction came 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 was the warning, “Keep in mind, political and/or religious expressions are not permitted on the flag certificate.”

The statement from the Capitol architect’s office noted, Recently, some members of Congress from the House of Representatives brought the issue of the policy to Mr. Ayers’ attention, noting that they believed these rules were inappropriate and inconsistently applied.”

Ayers said, “My review revealed that, in fact, these rules have been inconsistently applied and that it is inappropriate and beyond the scope of this agency’s responsibilities to censor messages from members. The architect’s role is to certify that flags are appropriately flown over the U.S. Capitol, and any messages on the flag certificates are personal and between a member of Congress and his or her constituents.

“These members believed the rules needed to be changed, and I completely agree,” he said. “Therefore, after seeking guidance from our congressional oversight committees, I have directed that the policy be changed and that new guidelines be reissued immediately.

“I appreciate the Congress bringing this important issue to my attention, and I appreciate their support as we worked to resolve this situation to everyone’s satisfaction,” he said.

Two members of Congress had cited problems with the old policy in recent days. 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.”

Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio, also had cited a problem. He said a constituent, Paul Larochelle, asked for a flag to present 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.

Musgrave and Turner were joined by Reps. Steve King, Randy Neugebauer and Steve Pearce in a letter of complaint to 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.”

Boehner said in the letter to Pelosi yesterday the longstanding congressional tradition of using the word God in such certificates upon request should be restored.

“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.”

The censorship appeared 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).”

Jamestown officials later updated some of the guidelines, but a Christian organization had to erect a monument to the 400th anniversary referencing the Christian foundations of the settlement.

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.

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)

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