Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
In response to public protest sparked by an exclusive WND report, the National Park Service today told WND it is rebuilding the display of the replica of the cap on the Washington Monument so that the Latin inscription “Laus Deo” – meaning “Praise be to God” – is no longer obscured from public view.
As WND reported, Pastor Todd DuBord of Lake Almanor Community Church in California noticed the problem with the current display during a recent visit to Washington and wrote to the Park Service requesting that the problem be fixed.
The actual 100-ounce aluminum cap on the peak of the 555-foot stone monolith includes engravings on its four sides. Since the inscriptions are not legible from the ground, the Park Service displayed a replica inside the monument but placed the side with “Laus Deo” against a wall so it couldn’t be seen.
David Barna, director of communications and public affairs for the Park Service in Washington, told WND the original placement of the replica was a mistake and the concealment of the reference to God wasn’t intentional.
He said the Park Service got 28,000 e-mails today raising the issue.
“It was stupid,” he told WND. “We’re going to fix it.
Barna said there is a room available for the display where a bookstore used to be located.
“We have this room everybody goes to,” he said. “We’ll have the cap in the middle of the room, with access on all four sides, as well as interpretative displays for the quotes. We’re going to fix this.”
A prepared statement about the issue noted, “In recent days, it has been brought to the National Park Service’s attention that a replica aluminum capstone representing the top of the Washington Monument that is on display on the Monument’s 490-foot level has not been fully visible to the public.
“As a result, the National Park Service is exploring methods to make the replica capstone visually accessible from all angles so that all visitors may be able to see and read both the replica capstone and any related interpretive material in display cases that would be situated near the replica capstone,” the statement said.
The Park Service said the replica is oriented now in the same direction as the original, but in its current display position “is visible on three sides, with the fourth side currently not visible to visitors.”
“Additionally, the National Park Service will provide new interpretive information that will feature all of the capstone inscriptions in full, giving visitors the opportunity to fully understand the display,” the statement said.
“We appreciate this information being brought to our attention, and we agree that the public should be able to learn as much as possible about the monument,” said National Mall & Memorial Parks Superintendent Peggy O’Dell.
“This was clearly an oversight in this exhibit, and we will take measures so all visitors are able to see this exhibit.”
“We are very pleased with the National Park Service’s commitment to change the capstone replica display so that future generations can learn the complete history of the Washington Monument, including the religious one. The public needs to know that the builders of the Monument ‘praised God’ (LAUS DEO) for its completion, and that they did not regard its inscription on the capstone as a violation of Church and State,” said Pastor DuBord. “From classroom texts to historic sites, it’s time we stop tolerating the removal and revisions of our Christian heritage. It’s time we accepted the words of Edmund Burke, ‘Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.’ I thank the NPS for their fast action and rectifying this problem, and I look foward to seeing the new display at the Washington Monument. Let’s hope it’s detailed and tells us why they would have included such an inclusion, all by itself on one side of the capstone.”
The following photograph shows how the display was seen in 2000, when the inscription could be seen by visitors, even if at an angle:
This 2000 photograph of the display of the cap from the Washington Monuments shows it at an angle, so viewers can see the LAUS DEO (Praise be to God) inscription.
But the following photo, from this year, shows how the cap replica has been straightened and moved close to the wall so that visitors are unable to see the inscription at all, a point raised by DuBord after his visit.
This 2007 photograph shows the cap has been straightened so that no one can see the inscription on the side against the wall, the LAUS DEO inscription
DuBord also lobbied those organizations to restore accuracy in their recounting of the nation’s Christian heritage.
At the Washington Monument, he said he even tried to press his head “firmly against the wall above the replica and tried to catch an angle of light, while squinting to see any writing at all.”
“I could barely make out some etching looking down from that bird’s eye view, but there was simply no way I would have known what it said unless I already knew the saying was there – ‘Laus Deo,’” DuBord said.
“Surely, I thought, if the one side of the replica is hidden from public sight, they have certainly written something about it,” he continued. However, “There was no description of ‘Laus Deo’ on the front side of the replica stand. There was also no description of ‘Laus Deo’ on the large information display on the wall in back of the replica. There was nothing there, absolutely nothing – no way for any visitor to ever know that the words, ‘Laus Deo,’ (‘Praise be to God’), were inscribed on the original cap!”
The pastor said rangers at the monument were unable to help him with an explanation for the display.
After returning home, DuBord investigated and found that not only had the cap replica been repositioned, the description also was edited to remove God.
The 2000 description, he said, was:
APEX OF THE MONUMENT Reproduction The builders searched for an appropriate metal for the apex that would not tarnish and would act as a lightning rod. They chose one of the rarest metals of the time, aluminum. The casting was inscribed with the phrase, Laus Deo, (Praise be to God).
The last sentence was edited out for the 2007 display, he said, which includes only:
CAP OF THE MONUMENT Reproduction The builders searched for appropriate metal for the cap that would not tarnish and would act as a lightning rod. They chose one of the rarest metals of the time – aluminum.
Photographs of the two versions document this:
The description of the capstone likewise was changed to remove the reference to God, with the 2000 description on the left, “God-less” description on the right
The three sides of the replica visible to visitors include this information:
North Face: Joint Commission at Setting of Capstone. Chester A. Arthur. W.W. Corcoran, Chairman. M.E. Bell. Edward Clark. John Newton. Act of August 2, 1876.
West Face: Corner Stone laid on bed of foundation July 4, 1848. First stone at height of 152 feet laid August 7, 1990. Capstone set December 6, 1884.
South Face: Chief engineer and architect, Thos. Lincoln Casey, Colonel, Corps of Engineers, Assistants: George W. David, Captain, 14th Infantry, Bernard R. Green, Civil Engineer. Master Mechanic, P.H. McLaughlin.
It’s the East Face, facing the Capitol, that contains Laus Deo.
DuBord’s letter to the Park Service explained that he cares about such historical marks.
“If the creators of the Monument were so grateful for their Heavenly Father (God) that they inscribed a praise specifically to Him alone on one side of the cap, shall we then show disrespect to them and God by covering it up?
“If the National Park Service is seeking to preserve such historic sites with integrity and dignity as their creators intended them to be understood, then it seems only right that a full disclosure and education of the capstone’s inscription be known to the public inside the Monument, just as it is on the NPS website,” he said.